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*** THE ALIYAH REVOLUTION ALBUM ***

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lori: Practicing what was preached





Once upon a time Malkah posted a clip from Aish Hatorah's Lori Platanik where she praised her students for making Aliyah, but felt that was only possible because she, personally, stayed behind in America. So as much as she wanted to make Aliyah, she was needed where she was in D.C.

Yechiel (Jonny) posted a followup post where Rabbi Pinchas Winston rebuts that argument. The Rabbi explains that it's not her personally that is needed in D.C. but her role. And that Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, explains, just like Hashem decided the role was needed and then filled that role with her - if she made Aliyah Hashem will find someone else to fill that role, if that role was indeed still needed. He speaks from the experience of his very own Aliyah when he asked his Rosh HaYeshiva for advice.

Well Rebbetzin Platanik just spoke about Aliyah again. She remarks how it's hypocritical to teach our children how important Eretz Yisrael is but get upset at them when they decide to make Aliyah. An excellent point and a very good watch.

Check it out above!

I just wonder if it's also hypocritical to teach our children about the importance of Eretz Yisrael, not get upset when they make Aliyah, but still not make Aliyah yourself?

At Kumah, we hope to greet Lori and everyone else in the airport when they make Aliyah very soon! Amen!

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Monday, November 30, 2009

TLATD #3: Living in Israel During a Recession



The discussion of the Gemara (BB 91a) turns to the economy of Eretz Yisrael. It explains that to protect the economy of Eretz Yisrael certain staples (wines, oils and fine flours) were not allowed to be exported. The concern is that exporting these items could lead to a shortage and a price hike which would create hardships for the local population of Eretz Yisrael.

It is important to note how focused not just Tanach is on Eretz Yisrael, but even the Talmud Bavli which was written in Babylonia. The Gemara continues to explain that we are equally concerned about the economy in Eretz Yisrael if prices dropped too much (60% of its original value) and a special prayer would be recited on Shabbos in such an event. This seems much like the way Jews all over the world pray for rain in Eretz Yisrael and on Shabbos for the well-being. The Jewish people are always focused on our true Homeland.

The Gemara then makes an extraordinary statement about living in Eretz Yisrael. "One may not leave the land of Israel to go live outside the land unless two se’ah of wheat cost a sela." In other words inflation would have to reach a whopping 100% before one would be permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael according to the Rabbis. Rabbi Shimon however disagrees and holds this is only true if one can not even find wheat to purchase but otherwise, even if wheat costs double leaving the Land is forbidden.

A proof is brought for R’ Shimon's strict position from the Meggilas Rus. Artscroll's translation: "And similarly R’ Shimon ben Yochai used to say: Elimelech, Machlon and Chilyon [who left the Land of Israel during a famine and moved to Moab where they died not long after,] were the great men of their generation and the caretakers of their generation. And for what reason were they punished? Because they left the land of Israel to go live outside the Land."

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Nefesh B'Nefesh Hanukkah Flash Mob








Sunday, November 01, 2009

TLATD #2: The Fantastic Tales of Rabbah bar bar Chanah


Daf Yomi this week discusses the Fantastic Tales of Rabbah bar bar Chanah, twenty or so stories that Rabbah heard or witnessed that are just so unbelievable it’s obvious they are allegories.

In one tale, Rabbah witnesses a giant frog, the size of “sixty houses” swallowed by a sea-monster which is in turn swallowed by a giant raven. The raven lands on a massive tree. Rabbah exclaims “come, see how strong that tree was!” Rav Pappa remarks that if he hadn’t been there he never would have believed it!

The Gra explains (see "The Juggler and the King" for a detailed discussion of the Gra's explanations) how the frog is symbolic of the Torah Scholars (who make noise day and night studying Torah.) The sea-monster is the evil
inclination which can doom the scholar. The raven, a bird that abandons her young to the good will of Heaven, symbolizes the solution to defeating the evil inclination sea-monster. Put all your faith in Hashem.

The tree symbolizes all those that support Torah. In Babylonia, where Rav Pappa was from, the people did not support torah learning as much as the Jews of Eretz Yisrael did. In was only after Rav Pappa came to Eretz Yisrael that he saw the incredible philanthropic acts of the people of the Land of Israel. If Rav Pappa hadn’t seen it with his own eyes he wouldn’t have believed it.

The truth is, the hand of Hashem is much more visible here in Eretz Yisrael. The entire survival of the State of Israel is completely dependent on each year’s rainfall. In short faith is a little bit easier to come by here and it’s this faith that leads to so many acts of kindness people living far away from Israel would have to come and see to believe.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Land and the Daf #1: Olive Oil



Last year I joined up with countless others on the noble project of learning Daf Yomi. We learn a daf, two side of a page, of Gemara (Talmid) every day. The beauty of this is you can discuss what you are learning with Jews all over the world no matter where you go since everyone learns the same thing at the same time.

One of the things I noticed right away was how many times the subject matter somehow relates to living in Eretz Yisrael. Sometimes the connection is quite obvious and jumps out of the page and other times it's more subtle but it’s still there. I thought it might be nice to share some of these thoughts as I came across them.


In today's daf for example (on B.B. 67B) the Mishna discusses what is included in the sale of an olive oil factory if nothing was explicitly specified. The Mishna actually uses very mysterious terms like “the sea” and “the maidens.” When learning this difficult Mishna I actually understood it a lot better today, now that I live in Israel than I would have before I made Aliyah.

The reason is because Yishai was nice enough to show me an ancient olive oil factory that was discovered right behind his home in Beit El. Actually there are many of these ancient olive presses all over Israel. Having become familiar with that it was a lot easier to understand all the parts of the press the Mishna is describing.

It’s very easy to learn Gemara, Mishnayos or even Chumish in America and to feel completely disconnected from the subject matter as if it’s only theoretical and not “real.” However when you live here in Israel the Torah really comes to life. I can't imagine how anyone that loves Torah wouldn't want to live in the land of the Torah.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

NBN 5769 In Review - Shana Tova!








Monday, September 07, 2009

The Jerusalem Gap



Well, it had to happen. For better or for worse Jerusalem now boasts her very own GAP store. (And Baby GAP too!) Now the pros and cons of this development can be easily debated and I’m sure they will be (comment away). But there is one thing people should be careful not to say: “Jerusalem now has everything.”

Indeed there is a “gap” between those that believe bringing this large American cooperation is the pinnacle of Zionism and those that pray for a renewed Zionist spirit, which through the same sort of effort used to produce this accomplishment can bring the third Beit Hamikdash to Jerusalem as well.

In the meantime, happy shopping! It’ll be good for the economy.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why did the truck driver cross the road?



So I was walking down King George St one day when I spotted a lady crossing the street. She had a bag over her shoulder and was wheeling a stroller while a toddler was pushing his own riding toy beside her. There was nothing unusual about that. She was crossing the street perpendicular from where I was waiting at the red light. (A policewoman recently warned me not to cross against the light just near this intersection so I wasn’t going to press my luck.)

Right smack in the middle of the street the toddler apparently resented his mother holding his hand and became very uncooperative. This forced mom to pick him up with one hand, and wheel the stroller with the other, all while still having the bag over her shoulder. Inevitably, that yellow riding toy was left behind right in the middle of a very busy intersection. The red light that kept the long line of cars from smashing it to pieces was about to turn green.

There was nothing the mother could do, as she wasn’t about to abandon her children for this toy. As I was about to cross against the light to help her out, policewoman’s warning or not, something truly unexpected happened. Sitting in front of this long line of cars that were waiting for the light to change was a delivery truck. The truck’s driver side door flew open and down jumped the truck driver who happily rescued the riding toy from its precarious position and deposited it safely on the corner. With a wave, nod, and a smile he jumped back in to his truck.

As I stood there watching I was awed. I was wondering what exactly would happen if the same scenario played out in New York City. Would any NYC truck driver ever abandon his vehicle to help a mother in need? Would any NYC truck driver even bother driving around the toy rather than simply running it over?

Who knows? But one thing I know. Here in Israel when people see that help is needed – they help! Because after all, we are all part of the same family.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

What's in your backyard?



There was a small news bite in the Israeli media which most people may not have even noticed. Today, there was a court hearing to decide the fate of a grave that was recently discoverd.

The story goes something like this. Mitch Pilcer owns a bed and breakfast in Tzipori in the lower Galilee. Business was going well so he decided to expand the hotel. But when they started digging in his yard they discovered something extraordinary.

Right there in his backyard was the grave of none other than Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi ! It's still being investigated to see if things pan out and it really is the grave of the important Amora sage. But it just goes to show you that when you are living in a land that contains thousands of years of our history you'll never know what you'll discover right in your own backyard!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going Home



If you live in Jerusalem you may have noticed some extra Nesher Airport Taxi vans whizzing around the city this week. And many of the streets around town are missing something uniquely Jerusalem.

That's because it's that time of year again. Time when all the yeshiva guys and seminary gals have finished "their year" and are all set to head "home."

Some will come back for a second or third year. Some will even be on a Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah flight this summer. (Studying at Bar Ilan instead of YU/Stern is becoming a hot trend!) But some, won't.

It's an interesting thing, that year. I have some of the fondest memories of my life from my year and it certainly is a life changing experience. A great many students are so impressed by Eretz Yisrael while they are here that they decide to seriously consider moving here (even in the places that aren't pushing Aliyah and certainly in the ones that are.) I hear students that I know never dreamed of Aliyah say things like "If I made Aliyah I would live over here." That's a huge step.

The best advice I can offer to those so many students that have been inspired this year is not to wait! If you have a plan - like studying for a degree at Bar Ilan - stay here or come back with NBN this summer. And if your plan calls for a brief stop over in Chutz L'Aretz (mine did) then make sure the keep the flame alive because if there is one thing Golus is great at it's burning out that Aliyah flame. If you don't actively keep the dream of Aliyah alive it will quickly change from a goal to "a nice thing to maybe do one day" and later in some cases Israel will become "a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there."

So how do you keep that flame alive? Get involved. Many colleges already have Aliyah clubs - join them! In my case the Aliyah Club at my college was defunct so I restarted it myself. Then I joined Kumah. And I made sure to visit Israel every free chance I got! As long as you keep that connection with Eretz Yisrael alive your dream of Aliyah will come true. And then you'll finally really go Home!

We'll greet you at the airport!

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Sivan 5769



The month of Sivan started on Sunday.

Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Avocado
Carob
Dates
Grapefruit
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Kiwi
Nectarine
Olives
Paprika*
Pecan
Peanuts*
Persimmon
Plums (Euro Longated)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Sabra
Sunflower Seeds*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 1 Sivan
Chickpeas


On 10 Sivan
Cherries
Litchi
Mango
Mustard
Pumpkin


On 15 Sivan
Butternut Squash


On 24 Sivan
Pears


------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:


Paprika
Peanuts
Popcorn
Sunflower Seeds


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

On 1 Sivan
Chickpeas


On 10 Sivan
Mustard
Pumpkin


On 15 Sivan
Butternut Squash


------------------
Biur

On 1 Sivan 5769:
Medlar (Shesek)


On 4 Sivan 5769:
Oranges


On 6 Sivan 5769:
Olives
Olive Oil


On 20 Sivan 5769:
Grapefruit
Pomelo


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)


On 1 Tevet 5769:
Persimmon


On 15 Tevet 5769:
Carob
Mango


On 17 Tevet 5769:
Apples

On 26 Tevet 5769:
Almonds

On 1 Kislev 5769:
Barley
Nectarine
Paprika
Peaches
Popcorn
Pumpkin


On 11 Kislev 5769:
Chickpeas
Sunflower seeds


On 15 Kislev 5769:
Kiwi
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 16 Kislev 5769:
Guava

On 25 Kislev 5769:
Figs


On 14 Adar 5769:
Dates


On 15 Nisan 5769:
Grapes


On 10 Iyar 5769:
Pecan


On 18 Iyar 5769:
Etrog


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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Fire From Sinai



If you were some sort of head of State, and you decided to pay an official visit to Israel on say, Lag B’Omer, you would probably return home and tell people, “it's a beautiful land, but the locals there, those Jews, they sure are a bunch of pyromaniacs!”

I’ve written before about how in America I used to think Lag B’Omer was about softball. After all the softball is symbolic of Torah and the light that shines forth from it symbolizes the light that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai brought to the world by authoring the holy Zohar. Now, however, I know that using bonfires in place of softballs fit the symbolism much more aptly.

This year I didn’t go to Har Meron. Instead, I hung out in Jerusalem. What struck me the most about last night, was not how many fires there were around the city, in every park, and open lot, but the absolute breadth of the types of people enjoying them. From the most charedi godal hador down to the most secular Jew that never even heard of the Zohar, let alone Rashbi, all were singing and smiling at a huge bonfire somewhere in the country.

And that got me thinking. Even if one isn’t particularly religious, just by living in the holy land of ours some religion is going to rub off on them. Take Purim as another example. Every single eight year old in this country - from ultra-secular to ultra-religious - dresses up for Purim and could likely relate to you the entire Purim story. This is not the case in America, where many secular Jews there never heard of Purim.

I came across an interesting Rashi on this week’s Parsha. Perhaps the most commonly found verse in the Torah is “And G-d spoke to Moshe saying.” This week the Parsha opens with an interesting variation. “And G-d spoke to Moshe, on Mount Sinai, saying.” Rashi asks, “Why here?” Hashem said all of the Torah to Moshe on Sinai! Why is only this one spot, which discusses the laws of Shmittah (the Sabbatical year) singled out?

Without going into depth (see it inside for details) Rashi answers that we could learn out from here that all commandments with all the details and fine points they involve, were taught on Har Sinai and completely repeated with full details by Moshe “at the Plains of Moab.”

A question that came to me is that the Torah could still have applied the words “on Mount Sinai” to any other commandment in the Torah and we would have been able to come to the same conclusion. Why did it specifically choose the commandment of Shmittah?

Shmittah is an example of something, even the most religious Jews living in America know very little about. It’s something that simply doesn’t apply there and so not much effort is spent studying it. The Talmid Bavli (which was written in Babylonia) doesn’t even have a tractate on it. Whether one was written but lost or never written is debated but the reason for either scenario would simply be because those laws “didn’t apply” to them. (Incidentally, the Talmid Yerushalmi written in the Land of Israel does contain a tractate on the laws of Shmittah.)

Two years ago, I remember being terrified by the upcoming Shmittah year, which I knew nothing about! I attended shiur after shiur trying to get up to speed on what all the laws are (and there are many of them!) The shiurim were all very heavily attended which demonstrated that lots of people felt the same way. Now that we have to keep these laws we should learn what they are.

And now we can understand why Hashem chose this commandment out of all the others to apply the words “on Mount Sinai.” First, this commandment was given to us by G-d via Moshe on Har Sinai just like all the other ones. There is no reason not to be studying it regardless of where you are living. Don’t forget about it! And second, just like all the other commandments, this one, was also given on Har Sinai and it’s one that you should be keeping too. And if the only way to keep it is by living in the Land of Israel, then what are you waiting for?

Make Aliyah!

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Iyar 5769



Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Avocado
Butternut Squash*
Carob
Chickpeas*
Dates
Grapefruit
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Kiwi
Litchi
Mango
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Paprika*
Pears
Pecan
Peanuts*
Persimmon
Plums (Euro Longated)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Pumpkin*
Sabra
Sunflower Seeds*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 1 Iyar
Barley
Lemon


On 10 Iyar
Apricots


On 18 Iyar
Apples
Etrog


On 20 Iyar
Figs


On 22 Iyar
Plums (Japanese Round)

------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Butternut Squash
Chickpeas
Mustard
Paprika
Peanuts
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Sunflower Seeds


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

On 1 Iyar
Barley


------------------
Biur

On 10 Iyar 5769:
Pecan


On 18 Iyar 5769:
Etrog


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)


On 1 Tevet 5769:
Persimmon


On 15 Tevet 5769:
Carob
Mango


On 17 Tevet 5769:
Apples

On 26 Tevet 5769:
Almonds

On 1 Kislev 5769:
Barley
Nectarine
Paprika
Peaches
Popcorn
Pumpkin


On 11 Kislev 5769:
Chickpeas
Sunflower seeds


On 15 Kislev 5769:
Kiwi
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 16 Kislev 5769:
Guava

On 25 Kislev 5769:
Figs


On 14 Adar 5769:
Dates


On 15 Nisan 5769:
Grapes

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Stephen Frees His Jews








Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Nisan 5769




The month of Nisan 5769 began last week.

Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Apples
Apricots
Avocado
Barley*
Butternut Squash*
Carob
Chickpeas*
Dates
Etrog
Figs
Grapefruit
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Kiwi
Lemon
Litchi
Mango
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Paprika*
Pears
Pecan
Peanuts*
Persimmon
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Pumpkin*
Sabra
Sunflower Seeds*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 15 Nisan
Grapes


------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Butternut Squash
Chickpeas
Mustard
Paprika
Peanuts
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Sunflower Seeds


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

There are no items that Sefuchim ends this month.

------------------
Biur

On 15 Nisan 5769:
Grapes


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)


On 1 Tevet 5769:
Persimmon


On 15 Tevet 5769:
Carob
Mango


On 17 Tevet 5769:
Apples

On 26 Tevet 5769:
Almonds

On 1 Kislev 5769:
Barley
Nectarine
Paprika
Peaches
Popcorn
Pumpkin


On 11 Kislev 5769:
Chickpeas
Sunflower seeds


On 15 Kislev 5769:
Kiwi
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 16 Kislev 5769:
Guava

On 25 Kislev 5769:
Figs


On 14 Adar 5769:
Dates

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Only in Israel...



...do the buses wish you a Happy Purim instead of telling you where they are going!

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Adar 5769




The month of Tevet 5769 began Wednesday.

Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Apples
Apricots
Avocado
Barley*
Butternut Squash*
Carob
Chickpeas*
Dates
Etrog
Figs
Grapefruit
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Kiwi
Lemon
Litchi
Mango
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Paprika*
Pears
Pecan
Peanuts*
Persimmon
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Pumpkin*
Sabra
Sunflower Seeds*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 1 Adar
Peaches


On 6 Adar
Garlic


On 7 Adar
Medlar (Shesek)


------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Butternut Squash
Chickpeas
Mustard
Paprika
Peanuts
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Sunflower Seeds


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

On 6 Adar
Garlic


------------------
Biur

On 14 Adar 5769:
Dates


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)


On 1 Tevet 5769:
Persimmon


On 15 Tevet 5769:
Carob
Mango


On 17 Tevet 5769:
Apples

On 26 Tevet 5769:
Almonds

On 1 Kislev 5769:
Barley
Nectarine
Paprika
Peaches
Popcorn
Pumpkin


On 11 Kislev 5769:
Chickpeas
Sunflower seeds


On 15 Kislev 5769:
Kiwi
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 16 Kislev 5769:
Guava

On 25 Kislev 5769:
Figs

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Falafel King



They call him the Falafel King. If you ever stop by Afula in northern Israel be sure to drop by and buy a falafal just to watch him make it. He installed special stainless steel on the ceiling over the counter, cleaned daily, so don't get too grossed out by the falafal balls that hit the ceiling. This video is just a small taste of what he could do, as I didn't have time to film some of the cooler tricks.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Shevat 5769



Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Apples
Apricots
Avocado
Barley*
Butternut Squash*
Carob
Chickpeas*
Cucumbers*
Dates
Etrog
Figs
Garlic*
Grapefruit
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Kiwi
Lemon
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Paprika*
Peaches
Pears
Pecan
Peanuts*
Persimmon
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Pumpkin*
Sabra
Sunflower Seeds*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 1 Shevat
Onions


------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Butternut Squash
Chickpeas
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Garlic
Mustard
Paprika
Peanuts
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Sunflower Seeds


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

On 1 Shevat 5769:

Onions


------------------
Biur

No items require Biur this month.

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)


On 1 Tevet 5769:
Persimmon


On 15 Tevet 5769:
Carob
Mango


On 17 Tevet 5769:
Apples

On 26 Tevet 5769:
Almonds


On 1 Kislev 5769:
Barley
Nectarine
Paprika
Peaches
Popcorn
Pumpkin


On 11 Kislev 5769:
Chickpeas
Sunflower seeds


On 15 Kislev 5769:
Kiwi
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 16 Kislev 5769:
Guava

On 25 Kislev 5769:
Figs

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Friday, January 16, 2009

The Secret Weapon II of the IDF


Handing out Tzitzis to Soldiers

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Working To Bring Redemption Safely








Tuesday, January 06, 2009

For Thus Saith The L-RD



The following prophecy from Amos 1:6-8 is circulating in email in Israel and around the world:
כֹּה, אָמַר יְהוָה, עַל-שְׁלֹשָׁה פִּשְׁעֵי עַזָּה, וְעַל-אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ: עַל-הַגְלוֹתָם גָּלוּת שְׁלֵמָה, לְהַסְגִּיר לֶאֱדוֹם
Thus saith the L-RD: For three transgressions of Gaza, yea, for four, I will not reverse it: because they carried away captive a whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom.

וְשִׁלַּחְתִּי אֵשׁ, בְּחוֹמַת עַזָּה; וְאָכְלָה, אַרְמְנֹתֶיהָ
So will I send a fire on the wall of Gaza, and it shall devour the palaces thereof;

וְהִכְרַתִּי יוֹשֵׁב מֵאַשְׁדּוֹד, וְתוֹמֵךְ שֵׁבֶט מֵאַשְׁקְלוֹן; וַהֲשִׁיבוֹתִי יָדִי עַל-עֶקְרוֹן, וְאָבְדוּ שְׁאֵרִית פְּלִשְׁתִּים--אָמַר, אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה
And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the sceptre from Ashkelon; and I will turn My hand against Ekron, and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord G-D.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

The Secret Weapon of the IDF




Earlier this week Chabad posted this amazing article with photos that you must see!

It reminded me of something I posted a while back. And it seems fitting to repost it now after seeing the amazing work Chabad is doing on the front lines!



All the nations of the world will see that G-d's Name is associated with you, and they will be in awe of you. (Devarim 28:10).

Menachot 35b interprets this verse as a reference to the tefillin worn on the head.



When the Gentiles see the Jews proudly attired in tefillin, they respect them. Tefillin cast an aura of fear over Israel's foes. Even demons and spirits will tremble in fright (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5a).



The first letters of Shem Hashem Nikrah, "G-d's Name is associated," spell out the name of the letter SHiN. A Shin bolts out of either side of the head tefillin. It is the first letter of Sha-D-I. (Baal HaTurim).



"Tefillin are G-d's crown... Whoever dons this crown will become the ruler below, as G-d is the ruler above" (Zoher III 269b).



Similarly, Berachot 56a maintains that a person who sees tefillin in his dreams will soon rise to power. Berahot (6a) interprets "G-d's powerful arm" (Isaiah 62:8) as tefillin. "Tefillin grant power to Israel."



Accordingly, it has always been customary for Jewish soldiers to observe the mitzvah of tefillin with great care.




Text taken from Meam Loez on Ki Tavo p. 150. Photos collected from the Internet.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tevet 5769




The month of Tevet 5769 began Sunday.

Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Apples
Apricots
Avocado
Barley*
Butternut Squash*
Carob
Chickpeas*
Cucumbers*
Dates
Etrog
Figs
Garlic*
Grapefruit
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Kiwi
Lemon
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Onions*
Paprika*
Peaches
Pears
Pecan
Peanuts*
Persimmon
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Pumpkin*
Sabra
Sunflower Seeds*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items for which Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.


------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Butternut Squash
Chickpeas
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Garlic
Mustard
Onions
Paprika
Peanuts
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Sunflower Seeds


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

There are no items for which Sefichim ends this month.


------------------
Biur

On 1 Kislev 5769:
Barley
Nectarine
Paprika
Peaches
Popcorn
Pumpkin


On 11 Kislev 5769:
Chickpeas
Sunflower seeds


On 15 Kislev 5769:
Kiwi
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 16 Kislev 5769:
Guava

On 25 Kislev 5769:
Figs

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)


On 1 Tevet 5769:
Persimmon


On 15 Tevet 5769:
Carob
Mango


On 17 Tevet 5769:
Apples

On 26 Tevet 5769:
Almonds

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Fifth Night!


Chabad rocking the Machne Yehuda Shuk in Yerushalayim!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Those who don't learn from history...








Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Modern Day Miracles








Friday, December 05, 2008

Keep Rivka's Flame Alive!








Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Kislev 5769




The month of Kislev 5769 began Friday.

Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Apples
Apricots
Avocado
Barley*
Butternut Squash*
Carob
Chickpeas*
Cucumbers*
Dates
Etrog
Figs
Garlic*
Grapefruit
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Kiwi
Lemon
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Onions*
Paprika*
Peaches
Pears
Pecan
Peanuts*
Persimmon
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Pumpkin*
Sabra
Sunflower Seeds*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 1 Kislev:
Scallion


On 15 Kislev:
Parsley


On 20 Kislev:
Beets


On 25 Kislev:
Artichoke
Asparagus
Banana
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Eggplant
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Melon
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pineapple
Potatoes
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon



------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Butternut Squash
Chickpeas
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Garlic
Mustard
Onions
Paprika
Peanuts
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Sunflower Seeds


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

On 1 Kislev:
Scallions

On 15 Kislev:
Parsley

On 25 Kislev:
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Dill
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Melon
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Potatoes
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon


------------------
Biur

On 1 Kislev 5769:
Barley
Nectarine
Paprika
Peaches
Popcorn
Pumpkin


On 11 Kislev 5769:
Chickpeas
Sunflower seeds


On 15 Kislev 5769:
Kiwi
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 16 Kislev 5769:
Guava

On 25 Kislev 5769:
Figs

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Am Yisrael Chai!



So... Fateh, of Yasser Arafat fame, set up a website called Fateh.net and they opened it up to anybody that wants to post a blog. Hmm... well someone posted this blog there called "Am Yisrael Chai" (The Nation of Israel Lives!)

I wonder how long till they figure it out and take it down...

Hat Tip: Aishel

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama In The Torah Codes



Okay, here we go. Yes, whether you believe in the Torah Codes or not, this one is interesting. Or not. Well let's just say it (since it's already spreading all over the blogosphere.)

The name Obama spelled אובאמה appears exactly two times in all of Tanach having a 7 letter skip forward pattern. (A 7 skip forward pattern is considered the most significant kind in Bible Code land.)

The first place is in Yermiyahu 30:10-11. Yermiyahu 46:27-28. (See "Update" at bottom.)

This is how it reads:

וְאַתָּה אַל תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם יְקֹוָק וְאַל תֵּחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי הִנְנִי מוֹשִׁיעֲךָ מֵרָחוֹק וְאֶת זַרְעֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם וְשָׁב יַעֲקוֹב וְשָׁקַט וְשַׁאֲנַן וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד: אַתָּה אַל תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם יְקֹוָק כִּי אִתְּךָ אָנִי כִּי אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדַּחְתִּיךָ שָׁמָּה וְאֹתְךָ לֹא אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה וְיִסַּרְתִּיךָ לַמִּשְׁפָּט וְנַקֵּה לֹא אֲנַקֶּךָּ

This is how it translates:

10 27 Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the L-RD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.
11 28 For I am with thee, saith the L-RD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.

Okay, so it sounds like now is a good time to make Aliyah. Shall we go on to the second place it's found?

The second place is in Yechezkel 38:2-3.

It reads:

בֶּן אָדָם שִׂים פָּנֶיךָ אֶל גּוֹג אֶרֶץ הַמָּגוֹג נְשִׂיא רֹאשׁ מֶשֶׁךְ וְתֻבָל וְהִנָּבֵא עָלָיו: וְאָמַרְתָּ כֹּה אָמַר אֲדֹנָי י-ה-וִה הִנְנִי אֵלֶיךָ גּוֹג נְשִׂיא רֹאשׁ מֶשֶׁךְ וְתֻבָל

Which translates as:

2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him
3 and say: 'This is what the Sovereign L-RD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.

Okay, so maybe not only is it a good time to make Aliyah... but you better make it quick!

This is the code that is being emailed around and what was posted here.

Okay - now for the debunking part. The first code simply doesn't work unless you spell Yaakov with a vav - which we don't. There are only 6 letters skipped between the second letter and the third letter. So that's out... but the second code still works... and amazingly the code starts on the letter aleph of the word
נְשִׂיא which besides meaning prince also means President!

Gil, is Obama Gog?

UPDATE: The site I linked corrected their error. It seems there are two places in
Yermiyahu where almost identical verses appear. There is one difference. The second time Yaakov, for some reason is indeed spelled with an extra vav. And that extra letter does allow the 7 letter skipping to spell out Obama. I have corrected the error above.


Hatip: Moshi

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Yartzheit of our Mother




Rachel, our Mother, died on the 11th of Heshvan 3,562 years ago.

Below is a live feed from Kever Rochel.



Or click here to watch.

Stream provided by keverrochel.com. Please visit thier site!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Okay, Gil, Now For My Prediction



The winner of the 2008 election for the next United States President will be none other than G-d, himself. (No, wise guy, I don’t mean Obama!) It will be our father in Heaven. See, we here at Kumah have a tradition of not endorsing any candidates for U.S. President.

Why? Don’t we feel that one candidate is far better for the State of Israel and for the Jewish people in general, than the other? Of course we do. Don’t we feel that one candidate’s rise to power will actually put Jewish lives at danger? It may sound like hyperbolic talk, but frankly, yes. Do we feel that every Jew has to do everything he or she can to prevent a calamity from befalling us? Certainly.

But that’s not our focus. Our focus is getting the Jewish people to return Home. Furthermore, we also realize one important reality. Every occurrence in life, whether a large world event or the smallest personal incident, is completely in G-d’s hands and more importantly, everything, large or small, that G-d orchestrates in his world is for the best. Period.

Make no mistake. G-d still demands we do our best to influence his world in the way we think will lead to the best outcome. But all the while we must acknowledge that G-d is in the driver’s seat. And that is a good thing.

So if one candidate is more of a catalyst for Aliyah. So be it. And if the other helps Israel defend herself, excellent. Whatever G-d decides is best. Nevertheless, one truth remains. The great Shofer is sounding calling Jews from around the world to return to the land of our heritage. And that Shofer will not stop sounding regardless of who G-d chooses to elect on Tuesday night.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Cheshvan 5769




The month of Cheshvan 5769 began today!

Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Apples
Apricots
Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Barley*
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash*
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carob
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Chickpeas*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dates
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Figs
Garlic*
Grapefruit
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Horseradish
Kiwi
Kohlrabi*
Lemon
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Onions*
Paprika*
Parsley*
Peaches
Pears
Peas (in pod)*
Pecan
Peanuts*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Persimmon
Pineapple
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Potatoes
Pumpkin*
Sabra
Scallion
Strawberries*
Sunflower Seeds*
Sweet Potatoes*
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 1 Cheshvan:
Zucchini (Squash)

On 8 Cheshvan:
Radish - small

On 15 Cheshvan:
Lettuce

On 20 Cheshvan:
Dill

On 23 Cheshvan:
Spinach

On 27 Cheshvan:
Radish

------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chickpeas
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Melon
Mustard
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peanuts
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Strawberries
Sunflower Seeds
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon


Sefichim Ends

Sefichim ends for the following this month:

On 1 Cheshvan:
Zucchini (Squash)

On 8 Cheshvan:
Radish - small

On 15 Cheshvan:
Lettuce

On 20 Cheshvan:
Dill

On 23 Cheshvan:
Spinach

On 23 Cheshvan:
Peas in Pod

On 27 Cheshvan:
Radish

------------------
Biur

On 1 Cheshvan 5769:
Pears
Sabra


On 20 Cheshvan 5769:
Peanuts
Plums (Euro Longated)


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tishrei 5769




The month of Tishrei 5769 began on Rosh Hashana!

Right now is Motzei Shmittah and items, starting with vegetables will start to lose their Kedushat Shevi'it. Many items will still retain Kedushah, however, for quite some time.

Important: Bi'ur is required for Butternut Squash on the first day of Sukkot! It's likely many people will have this in soup then so people consult with your LOR about this.

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items in Sefichim):

Almonds
Apples
Apricots
Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Barley*
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash*
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carob
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Chickpeas*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dates
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Figs
Garlic*
Grapefruit
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Guava
Horseradish
Kiwi
Kohlrabi*
Lemon
Lettuce*
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mustard*
Nectarine
Olives
Onions*
Paprika*
Parsley*
Peaches
Pears
Peas (in pod)*
Pecan
Peanuts*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Persimmon
Pineapple
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Pomegranate
Pomelo
Popcorn*
Potatoes
Pumpkin*
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Sabra
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sunflower Seeds*
Sweet Potatoes*
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

On 3 Tishrei:
Basil
Mint


------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefuchim begins anymore.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chickpeas
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mustard
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Peanuts
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Sunflower Seeds
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

On 15 Tishrei 5769:
Butternut Squash


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Google Translate Now Has Hebrew



Google can now translate Hebrew word into English words, paragraphs, or full web pages. And the reverse. Here is how this page looks in Hebrew.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Viral Video: Who Shall Live



This was forwarded to me from three people already.

I have a few serious issues* with it. But aside from those it's great.

(*See the full post for those issues.)


*1. Who are they to claim Naftoli Smolyansky, z"l, died before his time? Are they implying he was being punished by dying young for being a bad person and more importantly how will his family feel when they see this?

2. Using the images of the Merkaz Harav attack is in very poor taste and seems to imply they deserved it.

3. Is AIDS, a completely preventable STD, really a "plague?"

4. The Gush Katif expelled still wander, and it's their fault?

5. If these are all evil decrees, and repentance, prayer, and charity remove the decree... either that is false or we really blew it last year! Or is that the point they are trying to make?

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting Israelis To Make Aliyah



One of the saddest phenomenons I have witnessed since making Aliyah is the apparent apathy so many Jews living here show for the Land. Don’t get me wrong. There are so many Jews living here that are a true inspiration to the “Keep Making Aliyah” spirit. But there are far too many I meet (indeed even one is too many) that simply don’t feel anything special about this land.

When Jews living in America are apathetic toward living in Eretz Yisrael at least we could blame it on them being blinded by the “good life” of the “golden medina.” But when Jews who grew up drinking the water and breathing the air of Eretz Yisrael, and are still apathetic to the idea of living here and even warm to the idea of making Yerida – what excuse can we invent to explain this?

Actually that’s not really the question we should be asking. There are many answers we could give – ranging from government frustration to pure desensitization due to familiarity with the Land. Whatever the case may be here is the challenge I present to the reader and to my fellow Kumah bloggers.

What could we do to encourage all Jews – even though born and raised and still living in Eretz Yisrael – to keep making Aliyah?

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Israel, At Last, Gets On the (Google) Map




Now you can make Aliyah, because google has mapped out Israel.

One small point, the street names are only listed in Hebrew, and can only be searched in Hebrew.

No word on whether or not English maps are on the way, though knowing google I'm sure they are.

Hat Tip: BigToe


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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Elul 5768



The month of Elul begins tonight (Sunday night)! (Today is also Rosh Chodesh.)

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Elul:
Almonds
Grapefruit
Pomelo


On 13 Elul:
Guava
Olives


On 15 Elul:
Kiwi
Peanuts*
Persimmon


On 20 Elul:
Carob



Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Apples
Apricots
Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Barley*
Basil
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash*
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Chickpeas*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dates
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Figs
Garlic*
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Horseradish
Kohlrabi*
Lemon
Lettuce*
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mint
Mustard*
Nectarine
Onions*
Paprika*
Parsley*
Peaches
Pears
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Pineapple
Plums (Euro Longated)
Plums (Japanese Round)
Popcorn*
Potatoes
Pumpkin*
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Sabra
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sunflower Seeds*
Sweet Potatoes*
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

On 15 Elul:
Peanuts


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chickpeas
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mustard
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Popcorn
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Sunflower Seeds
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

There are no items that require Biur this month.

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


On 1 Av 5768:
Mustard


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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dangerous Threats?


We usually don't post about American politics but I figured since there's already precedence why not?

Well this ad came out today:


It's supposed to appeal to Americans that care about Israel I guess... well it's nice to know at least someone thinks Americans care about Israel...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rebranding Israel: FM Just Doesn’t Get It - Still!



This is not the first time Kumah has written about this.

Last week I attended the Nefesh B’Nefesh First International Jewish Bloggers Convention along with the rest of the Jblog world. One segment of the program featured Zavi Apfelbaum, the Director of Brand Management of the Foreign Ministry. At the time I did not know that she represented the State of Israel. (I didn't read the program, okay?)

(Click the video for a transcript we posted on YouTube.)

Which is why when blogger Moshe Burt (“Israel and the Sin of Expulsion”) began screaming at the top of his lungs “this is a Jewish State!,” though I agreed with him, I thought he was taking the wrong approach. But now that I realize exactly what was going on I think he was exactly right and that might be the only way to keep making the point, as Burt wrote, “until it sinks irrevocably into their consciousness.”

Let’s start at the beginning. The Foreign Ministry spent millions of shekel of taxpayer money to figure out that, guess what, the world thinks Israel is a bunch of thugs and a very cold (not weather-wise), dull, place to live or visit. Well obviously the world has branded us waaay wrong! Apfelbaum, again blaming the victim, claimed it was not the world that did it but we did it to ourselves. Perhaps I’ll grant that as a half-truth but that’s for another discussion.

So once again the Foreign Ministry plans to spend waste millions of shekel “rebranding” Israel.

Akiva, summarized it like this:

The future brand and marketing image of Israel:
1. Tel Aviv Fashion Brands
2. Tel Aviv Modern Dance Troupes
3. Tel Aviv Beach Life
4. Israeli High Technology Developments
5. Tel Aviv Night Life
6. Israeli High Technology Medical Developments
7. Israeli Wine
With the exception of 4 and 6, basically they are trying to brand Israel as Italy, France or Spain.

When will they learn? Israel is a Jewish Country!

Here’s what I wrote a year ago:

Once Israel becomes "a nation like any other" we are thrust onto a world scale we have no right being on. On that scale, Israel appears to be a pretty crummy nation with nothing special at all. Hence the post-Zionists. But if we stay on the scale we are supposed to stay on, the "light-to-the-nations" scale we are untouchable! When we promote G-d, no nation anywhere can come close in terms of history, culture, food, family life, beauty, and spirituality. Indeed we have something no other nation has.
To summarize, Israel already has an excellent – but discarded - brand. The powers-that-be in the government just don’t like it very much. But this brand has been around for over 3,300 years! Let me explain it in simple terms:

New York is to “The Big Apple” as Israel is to “The Holy Land.”

Gee, whiz. Brilliant! Why didn’t anyone ever think of that before? It’s a brand we have and it’s a brand we should use. It’s a brand that will stick because it already sticks, much to the dismay of the government. Basically the country is spending millions because we don’t want people to think of us as holy! Stop pretending to be the Europeans we are not, because the world is not dumb enough the fall for it. Start being yourself, Israel, and good things will happen. In the 60 years since she was founded Israel never got to be herself - not for one day.

And Moshe Burt is right. In terms of Holy we are talking Judaism. No Muslims are going to view Israel more favorable if we tell them Israel is important to them. And the Christians already know the real deal and love the Jewish people for it. Just talk to any Christians you meet. They know the Holy Land is G-d’s gift to the Jews and they are cool with that. Very cool with it.

So here is a small part of Pinchas’s plan for “rebranding” (that’s "re" as in repeating something not as in changing something):

Shabbat


Kotel



Jewish Tradition



Jewish Children




Holy Things



The problem is the government is working backwards. Instead of displaying the beauty of Judaism and Shabbat for the world, the government does everything it can to destroy our image as a holy nation by doing things like attempting to have buses run on Shabbat. Sometimes the only way to get the message across truly is to yell it, and to yell it again, again, and again!

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Video Blog: Witness NeoZionism - 43 New Members of Israel and the IDF




At Kumah we call it NeoZionism. It's that spirit of giving it all to rebuild our Homeland. Witness it yourself in this video. 43 young adults (age 20, plus or minus - usually minus - 3 years) gave up the "good life" in America to join the IDF. The ingathering of the exiles is well in progress as our Nation is infused with this new energy, this new passion, for returning home and contributing to the growth of the Jewish Nation.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Video Blog From The Kotel on Tisha B'Av 5768








Sunday, August 03, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Av 5768



The month of Av began yesterday, on Shabbat!

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Av:
Popcorn


On 15 Av:
Plums (Euro Longated)
Sunflower Seeds


On 20 Av:
Dates



Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Apples
Apricots
Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Barley*
Basil
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash*
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Chickpeas*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Figs
Garlic*
Grapes
Grapes for Wine
Horseradish
Kohlrabi*
Lemon
Lettuce*
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mint
Mustard*
Nectarine
Onions*
Paprika
Parsley*
Peaches
Pears
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Pineapple
Plums (Japanese Round)
Potatoes
Pumpkin*
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Sabra
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sweet Potatoes*
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

On 1 Av:
Popcorn


On 3 Av:
Paprika


On 15 Av:
Sunflower Seeds


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chickpeas
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mustard
Onions
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

On 1 Av:
Mustard


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


On 1 Tamuz 5768:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz 5768:
Apricots


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Friday, July 18, 2008

Growing Up Frum



For some Jews, the under-35-frum-from-birth crowd, the name Uncle Moshy invokes many of the fondest childhood memories. What Orthodox child, growing up in North America, didn’t attend at least one Uncle Moshy Chol HaMoed concert? What Frum child didn’t own all the Uncle Moshy records or tapes?

I recently happened upon some Uncle Moshy clips on YouTube of all places. One was the song Uncle Moshy sings at the very end of his albums. This is how it goes:



Now it’s time to say Shalom*
Uncle Moshy is going home
But you know he’ll be back again
Teaching the mitzvos of Hashem

Let us hope and let us pray
That Moshiach will come our way
And we will hear that Shofar blow
To Yerushalayim we will go

Yeru-sha-la-yim,
Yeru-sha-la-yim,
Yeru-sha-la-yim,
Yeruu-sha-la-yim

*This line is from memory.

And then it hit me… like a truckload of bricks! It always bothered me why, especially among FFBs the most prevalent attitude is that when Moshiach comes everything will magically change and poof we will all be transported to Yerushalayim in a snap. And until that happens everything is just fine and we should continue living here in New York.

Popular belief is that this is the only way Moshiach will come and there is no reason to move to Yerushalayim before Moshiach comes. I was never able to pin down exactly where this notion originated. But now I think I’ve got it. From Uncle Moshy! “Let us hope and let us pray/That Moshiach will come our way/And we will hear that Shofar blow/To Yerushalayim we will go.”

It might sound far-fetched but children of Uncle Moshy listening age are extremely impressionable. And influences introduced at that age easily stay with someone their whole lives. So there is a generation of Uncle Moshy fans davening every day for Moshiach, and waiting for that “great shofar,” so that we can finally return to Yershalayim, when in reality Hashem has already answered our prayers and is sounding the great shofar! And if we will only hear it we could simply board an Aliyah flight as a couple of hundred Jews are doing next week (look for Yishai on that flight!) and return to Yerushalayim in ten hours!

In truth I’m being a little hard on Uncle Moshy. I’m still a fan and think he is great and has contributed more to the Jewish Project, as Kumah calls it, than almost anyone I could think of. But sometimes we have to stop thinking like children and we have to grow up. There are a great many Jews that made and are making Aliyah, both from those that did and from those that didn’t grow up with Uncle Moshy and his Mitzvah Men. I wonder if we could learn from them how to see Judaism though adult eyes and not continue to live Judaism through the eyes of a child.

To be fair this issue existed long before Uncle Moshy was even born. Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal zt"l, wrote about it in 1943 in Eim Habanim Semeichah:

"Do not be so quick to conclude that we should sit back and do nothing about redemption, and that we should wait for Mashiach to come and carry us off on the wings of eagles to our Land and our inheritance. Many of our fellow Jews, even rabbis and Gedolei Torah, imagine that the redemption will occur in this way. One great rabbi [even] preached in public that we must not act at all, not even build and settle the Land. Rather we must wait for Mashiach to swoop down and carry us to Eretz Yisrael on clouds. He came to this conclusion because he did not delve into this halachah, which is one of the deepest and most obscure halachot. He who does not delve deeply into it has no grasp on it whatsoever."(p. 268)

Rabbi Teichtal concludes:

"He who says that Mashiach ben David will initiate the redemption, as the lowly masses anticipate, is like someone who says the sun will rise before dawn. Nonsense! The great evil that arises from this harmful outlook is tangible, as experience proves. It is a mitzvah to publicize this matter to the ignorant, and blessed is he who sanctifies G-d's name among the multitudes. In my opinion, he who hides this matters, desecrates G-d's name in private."



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Monday, July 07, 2008

Watch Aliyah LIVE!



Today Nefesh B'Nefesh announced that for the first time ever everyone all over the world will be able to watch an Aliyah flight arrive in Israel! NBN will be web-casting the historic event for the world to see.

"We wanted to enable those close to the people making Aliyah to get a better idea of the excitement and the Olim experience upon arrival in Israel," said Nefesh B'Nefesh's VP of Operations Danny Oberman. "This new technological addition will allow them to follow the arrival of their loved ones, almost as if they were there."

Check out the The Live Webcast this Thursday, July 10th at 12:10 am EST/7:10 Israel time right here. ( www.nbn.org.il/2008arrival )

Count how many Kumah bloggers you can spot there. And spread the word!

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tamuz 5768




The month of Tamuz begins Thursday night! (Today is also Rosh Chodesh.)

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Tamuz:
Grapes for Wine
Sabra


Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Apples
Apricots
Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Barley*
Basil
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash*
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Chickpeas*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Figs
Garlic*
Grapes
Horseradish
Kohlrabi*
Lemon
Lettuce*
Litchi
Mango
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mint
Mustard*
Nectarine
Onions*
Paprika
Parsley*
Peaches
Pears
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Pineapple
Plums (Japanese Round)
Potatoes
Pumpkin*
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sweet Potatoes*
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

On 1 Tamuz:
Horseradish


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Chickpeas
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mustard
Onions
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

On 1 Tamuz:
Artichoke


On 19 Tamuz:
Apricots



Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:

Broccoli

On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Sivan 5768




The month of Sivan begins Tuesday night!

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Sivan:

Chickpeas*


On 10 Sivan:

Litchi
Mango
Mustard*


On 24 Sivan:

Pears


Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Apples
Apricots
Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Barley*
Basil
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash*
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Figs
Garlic*
Grapes
Horseradish
Kohlrabi*
Lemon
Lettuce*
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mint
Nectarine
Onions*
Paprika
Parsley*
Peaches
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Pineapple
Plums (Japanese Round)
Potatoes
Pumpkin*
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sweet Potatoes*
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

On 1 Sivan:

Chickpeas
Sweet Potatoes


On 10 Sivan:

Mustard
Pumpkin


On 15 Sivan:

Butternut Squash

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Barley
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Onions
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

On 1 Sivan:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod


Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar:

Broccoli

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trivia Game and New Birthright/Masa Aliyah Grants




In honor of Israel's 60th Birthday Enhanced NBN Grants are available for Birthright and Masa Alumni Who Make Aliyah in 2008. Read about it here.

Tell all your Birthright and Masa friends about the trivia game and the grant! And make Aliyah together!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Live Arutz-7 Feed from Meron!




Click here to watch!

Or read about it here (hebrew).

Plus here are photos from two years ago when I was there.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Welcome to The Happiest Place On Earth!



Guess what? Israel is the happiest place in the world! So concludes noted Asia Times Online columnist Spengler after compiling the number of suicides in counties against their fertility rates, arguing that those choosing to create life and avoid death must be happy. And not only does Israel score higher than everyone else, she scores leaps and bounds higher, simply blowing away the competition.

It this fantastic article Spengler explains why this is so. And in a nutshell it's about Jews keeping the Torah together as a nation. He explains how we declare in the Aleinu prayer "G-d did not make us like the nations of other lands, and did not make us the same as other families of the Earth. G-d did not place us in the same situations as others, and our destiny is not the same as anyone else's."

On her 60th birthday Israel remains a nation UNLIKE any other. And that is precisely the secret of her happiness.

The articles is below and I have bolded important portions.

Hat Tip: DQ
----

Why Israel is the world's happiest country
By Spengler

Envy surrounds no country on Earth like the state of Israel, and with good reason: by objective measures, Israel is the happiest nation on Earth at the 60th anniversary of its founding. It is one of the wealthiest, freest and best-educated; and it enjoys a higher life expectancy than Germany or the Netherlands. But most remarkable is that Israelis appear to love life and hate death more than any other nation. If history is made not by rational design but by the demands of the human heart, as I argued last week , the light heart of the Israelis in face of continuous danger is a singularity worthy of a closer look.

Can it be a coincidence that this most ancient of nations [1], and the only nation persuaded that it was summoned into history for God's service, consists of individuals who appear to love life more than any other people? As a simple index of life-preference, I plot the fertility rate versus the suicide rate of 35 industrial countries, that is, the proportion of people who choose to create new life against the proportion who choose to destroy their own. Israel stands alone, positioned in the upper-left-hand-quadrant, or life-loving, portion of the chart [2]. Those who believe in Israel's divine election might see a special grace reflected in its love of life.

In a world given over to morbidity, the state of Israel still teaches the world love of life, not in the trivial sense of joie de vivre, but rather as a solemn celebration of life. In another location, I argued, "It's easy for the Jews to talk about delighting in life. They are quite sure that they are eternal, while other peoples tremble at the prospect impending extinction. It is not their individual lives that the Jews find so pleasant, but rather the notion of a covenantal life that proceeds uninterrupted through the generations." Still, it is remarkable to observe by what wide a margin the Israelis win the global happiness sweepstakes.

Nations go extinct, I have argued in the past, because the individuals who comprise these nations choose collectively to die out. Once freedom replaces the fixed habits of traditional society, people who do not like their own lives do not trouble to have children. Not the sword of conquerors, but the indigestible sourdough of everyday life threatens the life of the nations, now dying out at a rate without precedent in recorded history.

Israel is surrounded by neighbors willing to kill themselves in order to destroy it. "As much as you love life, we love death," Muslim clerics teach; the same formula is found in a Palestinian textbook for second graders. Apart from the fact that the Arabs are among the least free, least educated, and (apart from the oil states) poorest peoples in the world, they also are the unhappiest, even in their wealthiest kingdoms.

The contrast of Israeli happiness and Arab despondency is what makes peace an elusive goal in the region. It cannot be attributed to material conditions of life. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia ranks 171st on an international quality of life index, below Rwanda. Israel is tied with Singapore on this index, although it should be observed that Israel ranks a runaway first on my life-preference index, whereas Singapore comes in dead last.

Even less can we blame unhappiness on experience, for no nation has suffered more than the Jews in living memory, nor has a better excuse to be miserable. Arabs did not invent suicide attacks, but they have produced a population pool willing to die in order to inflict damage greater than any in history. One cannot help but conclude that Muslim clerics do not exaggerate when they express contempt for life.

Israel's love of life, moreover, is more than an ethnic characteristic. Those who know Jewish life through the eccentric lens of Jewish-American novelists such as Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, or the films of Woody Allen, imagine the Jews to be an angst-ridden race of neurotics. Secular Jews in America are no more fertile than their Gentile peers, and by all indications quite as miserable.

For one thing, Israelis are far more religious than American Jews. Two-thirds of Israelis believe in God, although only a quarter observe their religion strictly. Even Israelis averse to religion evince a different kind of secularism than we find in the secular West. They speak the language of the Bible and undergo 12 years of Bible studies in state elementary and secondary schools.

Faith in God's enduring love for a people that believes it was summoned for his purposes out of a slave rabble must be part of the explanation. The most religious Israelis make the most babies. Ultra-Orthodox families produce nine children on average. That should be no surprise, for people of faith are more fertile than secular people, as I showed in a statistical comparison across countries.

Traditional and modern societies have radically different population profiles, for traditional women have little choice but to spend their lives pregnant in traditional society. In the modern world, where fertility reflects choice rather than compulsion, the choice to raise children expresses love of life. The high birthrate in Arab countries still bound by tradition does not stand comparison to Israeli fertility, by far the highest in the modern world.

The faith of Israelis is unique. Jews sailed to Palestine as an act of faith, to build a state against enormous odds and in the face of hostile encirclement, joking, "You don't have to be crazy to be a Zionist, but it helps." In 1903 Theodor Herzl, the Zionist movement's secular founder, secured British support for a Jewish state in Uganda, but his movement shouted him down, for nothing short of the return to Zion of Biblical prophecy would requite it. In place of a modern language the Jewish settlers revived Hebrew, a liturgical language only since the 4th century BC, in a feat of linguistic volition without precedent. It may be that faith burns brighter in Israel because Israel was founded by a leap of faith.

Two old Jewish jokes illustrate the Israeli frame of mind.

Two elderly Jewish ladies are sitting on a park bench in St Petersburg, Florida. "Mrs Levy," asks the first, "what do you hear from your son Isaac in Detroit?" "It's just awful," Mrs Levy replies. "His wife died a year ago and left him with two little girls. Now he's lost his job as an accountant with an auto-parts company, and his health insurance will lapse in a few weeks. With the real estate market the way it is, he can't even sell his house. And the baby has come down with leukemia and needs expensive treatment. He's beside himself, and doesn't know what to do. But does he write a beautiful Hebrew letter - it's a pleasure to read."

There are layers to this joke, but the relevant one here is that bad news is softened if written in the language of the Bible, which to Jews always conveys hope.

The second joke involves the American businessman who emigrated to Israel shortly after its founding. On his arrival, he orders a telephone, and waits for weeks without a response. At length he applies in person to the telephone company, and is shown into the office of an official who explains that there is a two-year waiting list, and no way to jump the queue. "Do you mean there is no hope?," the American asks. "It is forbidden for a Jew to say there is no hope!," thunders the official. "No chance, maybe." Hope transcends probability.

If faith makes the Israelis happy, then why are the Arabs, whose observance of Islam seems so much stricter, so miserable? Islam offers its adherents not love - for Allah does not reveal Himself in love after the fashion of YHWH - but rather success. "The Islamic world cannot endure without confidence in victory, that to 'come to prayer' is the same thing as to 'come to success'. Humiliation - the perception that the ummah cannot reward those who submit to it - is beyond its capacity to endure," I argued in another location. Islam, or "submission", does not understand faith - trust in a loving God even when His actions appear incomprehensible - in the manner of Jews and Christians. Because the whim of Allah controls every event from the orbit of each electron to the outcome of battles, Muslims know only success or failure at each moment in time.

The military, economic and cultural failures of Islamic societies are intolerable in Muslim eyes; Jewish success is an abomination, for in the view of Muslims it is the due of the faithful, to be coveted and seized from the usurpers at the first opportunity. It is not to much of a stretch to assert that Israel's love of live, its happiness in faith, is precisely the characteristic that makes a regional peace impossible to achieve. The usurpation of the happiness that Muslims believe is due to them is sufficient cause to kill one's self in order to take happiness away from the Jewish enemy. If Israel's opponents fail to ruin Israel's happiness, there is at least a spark of hope that they may decide to choose happiness for themselves.

Why are none of the Christian nations as happy as Israel? Few of the European nations can be termed "Christian" at all. Poland, the last European country with a high rate of attendance at Mass (at about 45%), nonetheless shows a fertility rate of only 1.27, one of Europe's lowest, and a suicide rate of 16 per 100,000. Europe's faith always wavered between adherence to Christianity as a universal religion and ethnic idolatry under a Christian veneer. European nationalism nudged Christianity to the margin during the 19th century, and the disastrous world wars of the past century left Europeans with confidence neither in Christianity nor in their own nationhood.

Only in pockets of the American population does one find birth rates comparable to Israel's, for example among evangelical Christians. There is no direct way to compare the happiness of American Christians and Israelis, but the tumultuous and Protean character of American religion is not as congenial to personal satisfaction. My suspicion is that Israel's happiness is entirely unique.

It is fashionable these days to speculate about the end of Israel, and Israel's strategic position presents scant cause for optimism, as I contended recently. Israel's future depends on the Israelis. During 2,000 years of exile, Jews remained Jews despite forceful and often violent efforts to make them into Christians or Muslims. One has to suppose that they did not abandon Judaism because they liked being Jewish. With utmost sincerity, the Jews prayed thrice daily, "It is our duty to praise the Master of all, to acclaim the greatness of the One who forms all creation, for God did not make us like the nations of other lands, and did not make us the same as other families of the Earth. God did not place us in the same situations as others, and our destiny is not the same as anyone else's."

If the Israelis are the happiest country on Earth, as the numbers indicate, it seems possible that they will do what is required to keep their country, despite the odds against them. I do not know whether they will succeed. If Israel fails, however, the rest of the world will lose a unique gauge of the human capacity for happiness as well as faith. I cannot conceive of a sadder event.

Notes

[1] There are many ancient nations, eg, the Basques, but no other that speaks the same language as it did more than 3,000 years ago, occupies more or less the same territory, and, most important, maintains a continuous literary record of its history, which is to say an interrupted national consciousness.

[2] The countries shown in the chart are:

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Iyar 5768




The month of Iyar begins tonight (Tuesday)! (Today, Monday is also Rosh Chodesh.)

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.


Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Iyar:

Barley*
Lemon
Plums (Japanese Round)


On 18 Iyar:

Apples

On 20 Iyar:

Figs

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Apricots
Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Basil
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Garlic*
Grapes
Horseradish
Kohlrabi*
Lettuce*
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mint
Nectarine
Onions*
Paprika
Parsley*
Peaches
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Pineapple
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

On 1 Iyar:

Barley


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Onions
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

On 15 Iyar:

Broccoli

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

No Pictures This Year



So I just returned Home last night. I didn’t fly El Al (that’s for another blog post) but I flew Israir – another airline of Israel. And so toward the end of the flight, last night, the pilot came on and announced that Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was just starting and he would now shut off the entertainment system (the movies, video games, and much of the audio selection.) There was a large group of Christians on the flight (that’s for that other blog post too.) It struck me that all those Christians were eating Kosher meals (special glatt kosher meals, by the way, again another post someday) and observing Yom HaShoah, because guess what? They were flying on our airline. Not to compare anything to Yom HaShoah, but when a Jew has to wait extra long for a bus in New York City on December 25th is it because that Jew is in their country?

And when the siren sounded at 10 O’clock this morning I found myself standing in exactly the same spot I stood one year ago, a busy Jerusalem street. Last year I took pictures (Arutz-7 wanted some for a photo essay, and it is important to share with those that are not here,) but I felt just awful snapping photos then. But this year, would be different.

I also wondered what those Christians tourists felt when they saw everything stand still as motorists stood outside their cars. And what about those Birthrighters I saw in the airport coming to Israel for the first time. (That’s also for that other post.) On the very first day they arrive the siren is the very first thing they experience? What would it remind them?

It no doubt reminded all of them this morning as it reminded me, of way too many terrible, sad and haunting thoughts. But it also reminded me of one powerfully inspiring thought. Indeed, this is our country, our Home!

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Videos: Pesach, Our Past and Our Future...


First see this following AWESOME video - reenacting Pesach, which was posted on tsofar.com. It's really worth a watch!

Note: In IE you may have to hit play again after the intro plays.
Or launch it in an external player.

Next, watch this video of the Temple Institute who recreated the way a korban pesach was actually done. It's important to view because it's obvious in the not so distance future, G-d willing, every Jew will have to partake in a Korban Pesach in the third Bies Hamikdash! (Warning: It IS very graphic!)



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Monday, April 07, 2008

Woodmere Making Aliyah?



Perhaps the best model for North American Aliyah (or all Aliyah in general for that matter) is mass Aliyah. Making Aliyah as a community. Rabbi Riskin proved it could be done in 1983 when he founded Efrat by making Aliyah together with many of the congregants from his Lincoln Square Synagogue. Kumah has always be a strong promoter of mass Aliyah.

Well, today, Rabbi Shalom Rosner of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere New York, plans to follow in Rabbi Riskin’s footstep and will bring a whole community on Aliyah together. Nofei Hashemesh – located in Beit Shemesh in central Israel - is the name of this new community. You could read more about it on their website.

May this be the first on many new “Aliyah communities” to come!

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Nisan 5768




The month of Nisan begins this Sunday!

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.


Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Nisan:

Apricots

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Basil
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Garlic*
Grapes
Horseradish
Kohlrabi*
Lettuce*
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mint
Nectarine
Onions*
Paprika
Parsley*
Peaches
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Pineapple
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

There are no items that Sefichaim Begin this month.

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Garlic
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Onions
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

There are no items that require biur this month.

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:
Fennel

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

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Monday, March 17, 2008

The Answer



Esther said to relay to Mordechai: "Go and gather all the Jews who are in Shushan and fast for my sake, do not eat and do not drink for three days, night and day. My maids and I shall also fast in the same way. Then I shall go to the king, though it is unlawful, and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:15-16)

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

"We Will Not Deter"



(AP)

I received the following e-mail from a co-worker (who wrote it.)

Although I don't usually send out these types of emails, I would like to share the following with all of you.

Every morning I take the 35 bus line to work. It's a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on by the shuk is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. This morning I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street and flowers that had been brought lined the entrance to the Yeshiva.

When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes he told everyone sitting on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if everyone on the bus would mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys that were killed.

After seeing head nods all over the bus he began to speak. With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew and said that he was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning, and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years, and wanted to eventually work in informal education.
(Reuters)

As he continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she too had lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbors child was another one of the boys killed. As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor.

She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every friday he would visit her with a few flowers for shabbat and a short dvar torah that he had learned that week in Yeshiva. This past shabbat, she had no flowers.

When I got to work, one of my colleagues who lives in Efrat told me that her son was friends with 2 of the boys who had been killed. One of those boys was the stepson of a man who used to teach in Brovenders and comes to my shul in Riverdale every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to be a chazan for one of the minyanim.

We are all affected by what goes on in Israel. Whether you know someone who was killed or know someone who knows someone or even if you don't know anyone at all, you are affected. The 8 boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world.(AP)

This coming wednesday morning, I will be at Ben Gurion airport at 7 am with Nefesh B'Nefesh welcoming 40 new olim to Israel. We will not deter. We can not give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

JPost: Now Those Nutcase Righties Will Attack!


(AFP)

Here’s the spin the self-hating, murder-loving, religious-hating, Arab-loving, G-d-hating, grossly irresponsible – and frankly downright dangerous - extreme left wing media. Oh, they also happen to be exceptionally clueless. That or they just are malicious liars but I’m trying to be optimistic.

Take Amir Mizroch, news editor for the Jerusalem Post. He still just doesn’t get it!

Let me sum up his article entitled: Attack will be seen in Messianic terms

In a nutshell Mizroch claims that those “Nutcase Religious Zionists” are going to be so “seething with anger” that they are going to run into the streets shooting wildly blowing up anything that moves!

Moron! (I’m not name calling – it’s a scientific term.)

(Parenthetically, more evidence of his sheer stupidity is demonstrated in this flatly false assertion: “Very few people outside the religious Zionist population have even heard of Mercaz Harav, let alone know somebody who studies there.”)

Mizroch continues, “There may even be some on the fringes of the settlement movement who will want to take the law into their own hands and carry out a revenge attack, maybe even against targets in East Jerusalem, where it looks like the killer came from.”

Let me give you a clue Mr. Mizroch. Have you ever looked inside the Torah? Do you even know what a Torah is? Or should we say “Very few people outside the religious Zionist population have even heard of a Torah, let alone looked inside one?”

Sir, since we know very few people outside the religious Zionist population even own a Bible I’ll just have to fill you in here.

The angel of G-d said to her, “You are pregnant, and will give birth to a son. You must name him Ishmael, for G-d has heard your prayer. He will be a wild-ass of a man. His hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him.” (Genesis 16:11 – 12)

Wild-ass men shoot rockets at innocent civilians. Wild-ass men blow up public buses in the middle of cities. Wild-ass men brutally murder defenseless teenage Yeshiva students in cold blood. Wild-ass men fire their weapons into the air at funerals demanding revenge and then hand candy out to their children when it transpires.

The Jews - even those “right-wing nut-job Jews” are not wild-ass men. (Wise-guy leftists are itching to yell out “Baruch Goldstein” – very good. The fact that you remember his name proves how unique he is. Now can you name even one Arab terrorist that blew himself up on a bus? What’s that? No? Why not? Oh, I see. There are just too many?)

The way Mizroch writes you would think that at the funerals on Friday all the Jews were firing their weapons into the air. Guess what? They didn’t. Jews aren’t the wild-ass men. So stop your shameful, hateful, attacks – incitement even - that claim that the Jews are something they are not!

Amir Mizroch – Wow, what a dork! (Now I’m name calling!)

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Horrific And Depressing Photos Of The Attack (Graphic)


I did not take the following photos. They are a collection of various media photos and government press office photos which I found posted on a messageboard. I debated if there is any purpose in posting these here. I concluded that they are important for the sole purpose of gaining an understanding of the situation - to see it with our own eyes. To see it and to feel more connected with our holy brothers so that we could daven with the proper kavanah for a speedy redemption and an end once an for all to these atrocities. Tonight our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and indeed all of kal yisrael - since we are all the very same family.

Be warned the photos below are rather graphic and do contain blood. If you do not want to see them - don't scroll down.
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Israeli police deployed inside the 'yeshiva,' or Jewish seminary, in Jerusalem on 06 March 2008 after two Palestinians dressed as ultra-Orthodox Jewish yeshiva students entered and shot and killed at least eight Jewish students, wounding another 15, according to Israeli police. The two Palestinians were killed and one was wearing a suicide bomber's belt, which did not explode.
[Later reports said 7 students were murdered, and fewer were wounded - two seriously and that there was only one terrorist. Later reports also said the belt turned out to be for more ammo.-P]

Israeli police detain a suspect as he is led down stairs with a sweatshirt pulled over his head inside the 'yeshiva,' or Jewish seminary, in Jerusalem on 06 March 2008 [I do not know who this "suspect" is or was since later reports said there was only one terrorist who was killed. -P]


Israeli medics rush a seriously wounded young Israeli to an ambulance outside The Wohl Torah Center, a 'yeshiva,' or Jewish seminary, in Jerusalem on 06 March 2008 [Please say tehillim for the wounded. As soon as we have a list of names we will post it. -P]





A handout photograph supplied by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) showsIsraeli medics hold up a prayer shawl soaked in blood that has a bullet hole as they clean up inside the 'yeshiva,' or Jewish seminary, in Jerusalem on 06 March 2008


A handout photograph supplied by the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) shows bullet holes and blood stains inside and what appears to be the body of one of the two Palestinian gunmen inside the 'yeshiva,' or Jewish seminary, in Jerusalem on 06 March 2008

More Photos Here...

UPDATE2: Please say Tehillim for Naftali ben Gila from Sderot, Yonatan ben Avital, Shimon ben Tirza, Nadav ben Hadas, Reuven ben Naomi and Elchanan ben Zehava

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Adar Bet 5768




The month of Adar Bet begins this Shabbat! (Friday is also Rosh Chodesh!)

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.


Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 15 Adar Bet:

Grapes

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Basil
Beets*
Broccoli*
Butternut Squash
Cabbage*
Cabbage (Red)*
Carrots*
Cauliflower*
Celery*
Coriander*
Corn (Fresh)*
Cucumbers*
Dill*
Eggplant*
Etrog
Fennel*
Garlic*
Horseradish
Kohlrabi*
Lettuce*
Medlar (Shesek)
Melon*
Mint
Nectarine
Onions*
Paprika
Parsley*
Peaches
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Peppers*
Pineapple
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radish*
Radish-Small*
Scallion
Spinach*
Strawberries*
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes*
Turnip*
Watermelon*
Zucchini (Squash)*


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Adar Bet:

Garlic

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Onions
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Radish
Radish-Small
Spinach
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

On 14 Adar Bet:

Sweet Potatoes

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:

Fennel

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Video: Exposing The New Christians



(Or click here.)


Last year on a flight to New York I was seated with a group of what I thought were traditional American Christians. But I noticed they were all wearing a logo I had not seen before. It was a combo of the fish (you know which one I mean), the Star of David, and a seven branch menorah. I now know this is the symbol for Messianic Judaism , the latest religious craze sweeping across America. Here is just one of many lists of Messianic Congregations in North America today.


Movements and organizations have sprung up with names like:


Chosen People Ministries
Coalition of Torah Observant Messianic Congregations
Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship
International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues
International Federation of Messianic Jews
First Fruits of Zion
Messianic Bureau International
Messianic Israel Alliance
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America
One Law Messianic
Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
Union of Torah Observant Ministries


Now many of these “messianics” have their eye on Israel and even Aliyah! "MiTzion Productions" put together a five minute informative video about what’s going on and why you should care.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

When Passaic Is Jerusalem, Rav Leff's "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West"


The following essay by Rav Zev Leff, Shilta, entitled "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West?" appears as the introduction to "To Dwell in the Palace" by Tzivia Erlich-Klein (1991, Feldheim - a MUST read - order it today!).

Though I always wanted to post this here, I'm posting it now as a response the post "Passaic is Better than Israel."


Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West?
from “To Dwell in the Palace - Perspectives on Eretz Yisrael”

DRIVING HOME THROUGH the largely-uninhabited hills of Judea, or walking down the streets of an Israeli city still lacking the imprint of Torah, I hear the question echoing: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?”

The question is not of recent vintage, nor was it posed by a representative of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency. It was Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who addressed these words, some sixty years ago, to Rav Yitzchok Breuer. The rav of Yerushalayim further told the Agudah leader, “Now I understand the words of musaf for yom tov: `Because of our sins were we exiled from our country’ - by HaShem; `and we were distanced from our Land’ - this we have done voluntarily.” (Moriah, p. 191)


Another quote from Rav Sonnenfeld is perhaps even more pointed: “Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and doesn’t, will have to account for his failure in the future world.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149)

A generation or so later, a yeshiva student from the diaspora who had been learning in an Israeli yeshiva came to bid farewell to the Chazon Ish before returning to his home. “Is one permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel?” the gadol asked him. The student stammered and replied, “I understood that if one came to Eretz Yisroel with the intention of returning eventually, he is permitted to leave.” The Chazon Ish spoke in a tone of disappointment: “We are trying to devise methods to get bnei Torah to settle here and you are involved in finding ways to be able to leave?!” (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 42)

Baruch HaShem, Torah is flourishing in Eretz Yisroel to an extent scarcely even dreamed of by these great sages. But their questions still loom. Indeed, the extent to which the Torah community, otherwise scrupulously careful with mitzvos, is “involved in finding ways” out of the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel needs to be examined.

Factors Cited

The economic situation in Israel is often mentioned. Indeed, the Pischei Teshuva (Even Haezer 75, no. 6) rules that since living under conditions of economic privation can endanger, or at least compromise, one’s spiritual life, one is exempt from settling in Israel if he will be forced to live under conditions of dachkus (hardship). Now what constitutes the “dachkus” to which the Pischei Teshuva refers? The inability to afford $25 per pound gourmet chocolates? Not being able to acquire an elegant, very large wardrobe of `from” designer clothing? Is the definition of dachkus being too destitute to afford a $500,000 home that one would not think of inhabiting until it was gutted and elegantly redone? Or is dachkus a dearth of elegant glatt restaurants of various nationalities, pizza shops with all the trimmings, and frozen glatt kosher convenience foods and snacks?

Not to belabor the point, in essence the ruling of the Pischei Teshuva refers specifically to one who will be forced to live from tzedaka in Israel as opposed to being able to earn a living in chutz laAretz. By comparing employment possibilities in Eretz Yisroel today with those available either in the time of Rav Sonnenfeld or that of the Chazon Ish, we are soon forced to eliminate the exemption of the Pischei Teshuva for most cases. B’ezras HaShem one can earn a livelihood in Israel that would have been considered luxurious by most of prewar European Jewry. Even more significant, however, is this point: the more modest lifestyle typical in Israel today not only does no harm to one’s spiritual life, but it is likely to do much good.

The Torah sages of all generations warned against extravagant lifestyles, flaunting our wealth in the eyes of the nations, and becoming too comfortable in golus. The Maharsha (Shabbos 119) makes the following observation: “Most of the sins of this generation… can be attributed to the fact that… everyone wishes to conduct himself in an extravagant fashion in regard to clothing, houses, and all other matters; and this leads to theft.”

More recently, the Chafetz Chaim, in the Biur Halachic (siman 529), rebukes openly: “Many people err in this area and do not take to heart how to conduct themselves properly concerning their household expenses, to distance themselves from luxuries. Many have been damaged by this kind of conduct which ultimately brings one to theft and dishonesty and to shame and disgrace….” In Sfas Tamim (chapter V) the Chafetz Chaim blames the suffering, trials and tribulations of his times on the dishonesty promoted by overspending on luxuries, especially costly clothing; by overextending oneself through buying on credit; and by lavish weddings with unreasonable demands made on parents for dowries.

Another facet of the economic argument, one cited as a reason to delay aliya indefinitely, is financial “security.” (”How can we face the future without a sizable sum put safely away?”) The gemara (Sota 48) says: “One who has bread in his basket and worries what he will eat tomorrow is one of little faith.” The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the “little faith” is not evidenced by the uncertainty of tomorrow, but rather by this man’s certainty of today. By worrying only about to morrow, he shows that he puts his trust in the presence of bread in his basket, and not in HaShem. A believing Jew, by definition, does not hang his security on large bank accounts; he certainly would not compromise his Torah life in their pursuit.

All this considered, there do remain legitimate economic factors to weigh when planning aliya. The laws of tzedaka demand that we provide for one who falls on hard times not merely at subsistence level, but at the standard to which he was accustomed. This is because a drastic change in lifestyle can be very painful. In light of this insight gleaned from the halacha itself, an individual may and should consider very carefully his family’s present standard of living, the prospects for their situation in Eretz Yisroel, and the ability of the family to modify or adapt accordingly. Of course, a Jew who has been properly educated to the importance of aliya, and one who takes the admonition of the Chafetz Chaim cited above seriously, will be cautious from the start lest his family grow accustomed to exaggerated standards.

The second factor that could qualify as a reason for postponing aliya under the guidelines of the Pischei Teshuva concerns the individual’s predilection for a specific occupation. Chazal tell us that it is part of a man’s nature to find satisfaction in doing that for which he is best suited. We all know that there are many people who retrain in the middle of one career for an entirely new one, for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, one who finds satisfaction in his occupation should plan to pursue the same one in Eretz Yisroel. Where this would be impossible, one should weigh the available options for suitability and for the prospects of success and satisfaction inherent in each one. Failure to deliberate this issue could result in a potentially frustrating or unsuccessful aliya. Here too, however, if one teaches oneself to strive always towards aliya, then, at every crossroads in his training, he will have Eretz Yisroel in mind. Such a person will consider possible occupations in light of their transferability to Eretz Yisroel from the beginning.

And then there’s the matter of physical security. After all, the halacha does not permit us to put ourselves in danger.

Visiting New York, I have been asked: “Aren’t you afraid to live in the Shomron?” I find it amusing if not ironic when the question is asked while the host secures both his locks and activates his alarm system.

In the years I’ve lived on Moshav Mattityahu, there have been no incidents, no crime. My children can go out to play at any hour, and we do not bother to lock our doors even at night. How safe are the streets of any city in America that it should be recommended as a place of safety while Israel is rejected as dangerous?

On the streets of Eretz Yisroel, the only men carrying guns are the soldiers protecting us. At least here in Eretz Yisroel the security measures taken have an excellent record of effectiveness. And added to those security measures (which the halacha requires of us) the observable fact is that in Eretz Yisroel we merit an extra, supernatural, measure directly from the Ribbono shel olam. No, the safety factor does not really seem to be an issue.

Some claim to fear the problems that they would encounter trying to live a life of Torah under a secular Israeli government. Isn’t the negative attitude to Torah values and Torah observers exhibited by certain segments of Israeli society a significant detriment, they ask.

One wonders, however, if non-Jewish Western society, or for that matter the secular Jewish community elsewhere, is really a better environment for Torah ideals. Is the attitude there towards Torah values less hostile? Does kindly tolerance of observant Jews demonstrated by secularized brethren create a better atmosphere for growth?

Before the reader rushes to answer these complex questions, the following should be considered: When the Israeli government passed the law of conscription for women, an individual approached the Chazon Ish with a challenge: “Does the Rav still feel that Jews are obligated to come and settle here [i.e.., when there is a government that drafts laws such as this, subjecting our daughters to military service, which the gedolim forbid (they have even ruled that one must surrender her life if that is the only alternative to compliance)]?” After a brief, pained silence, the Chazon Ish answered in the affirmative with forceful resolve and clarity. (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 43)

Today, although conscription of women has yet to be annulled completely, any woman claiming to be religious is exempt. It would therefore appear, by kal vachomer from the psak of the Chazon Ish, that the objection posed above does not affect our obligation.

Those in positions of communal responsibility cite additional grounds for remaining in chutz laAretz. Clearly, consideration must be given to the effect their aliya will have on those for whom they bear responsibility. There are indeed many community rabbanim, roshei yeshiva, klei kodesh, and community heads who are crucial to the growth and stability of their respective institutions both spiritually and physically. It would, however, be absurd and somewhat haughty for every rabbi or communal leader to assume that the fate of his community rests on his shoulders alone.

In many cases the aliya of the leader would be an incentive and inspiration for those he leads to follow, for the benefit of all concerned. And there are leaders who would be even more effective and successful in Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Sonnenfeld directed his impoverished grandson to decline the offer of a prestigious rabbinical position in chutz laAretz and to remain in Eretz Yisroel. “I maintain that it is better to be a plain working man in Israel than a rabbi in chutz laAretz,” Rav Sonnenfeld told him. (This is not to be taken as a blanket principle for all cases. The comment is important, however, in that it challenges our preconception that the reverse is the rule.)

It must be emphasized that each situation is unique. When doubts exist, the advice of a Torah authority should be sought. I myself know of a number of cases where important rabbis and leaders were advised by a posek to go ahead and make aliya.

Another factor that sometimes discourages prospective olim is reports of problems encountered in chinuch of children, particularly those of high school age. This may seem surprising, since there is an abundance of excellent institutions of learning to be found in Eretz Yisroel on all levels. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of Hebrew language skills acquired in many US. yeshivos, coupled with cultural differences which are due to the infusion of foreign values, can create difficulties for the young oleh. Discrepancies of style between available options here and those one was accustomed to in the United States can cause considerable pain for children and parents alike. With proper planning and guidance, however, many of these problems can be reduced or avoided entirely. Furthermore, additional aliya from the US. will, inevitably, lead to the establishment of more schools tailored to these olim. (Indeed, recent years have witnessed the development of “American-style” yeshivishe education in Israel with a unique flavor all its own.)

There is also a great deal of discussion of halachic factors excusing today’s Jew from this mitzva. There are, after all, opinions that it is only a mitzva kiyumis (voluntary mitzva). This was the opinion of the late gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and some others. Well, tzitzis is also “only” a mitzva kiyumis. It might be worth contemplating the way we regard one who neglects the mitzva of tzitzis, or even one who does not wear an arba kanfos that conforms to the strictest shiur with tzitzis the most mehudarim. In a time of Divine anger, one is held accountable for a mitzva kiyumis as well.

And there are some who maintain that the mitzva is not binding at all today. This was the opinion of the late Satmar Rebbe zt”l and some others. Even if we ascribe great weight to this minority opinion, however, we must ask ourselves how we conduct ourselves regarding other mitzvos that are binding only according to “some” opinions. Do we not go to great lengths to be yotsai all the shitos? In the case of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the preponderance of opinion in favor of the binding nature of the commandment includes the Pischei Teshuva, the Avnei Nezer, the Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Chazon Ish….

The purpose of this article is not to enter into a halachic debate, nor to be so presumptuous as to rush in where giants have trodden before me. Yes, there are reliable halachic opinions which would mitigate the obligatory nature of yishuv Eretz Yisroel in our times; but the list of opinions in support of the imperative of fulfilling this mitzva today - only fractionally mentioned in the above paragraph - is a formidable one.

There is one point on which all Torah authorities are in agreement. That is that living in Eretz Yisroel affords one a unique opportunity for spiritual development and growth. While it is true that this opportunity must be considered in conjunction with many other factors that affect the spirit, one cannot simply ignore or disregard the special qualities of Eretz Yisroel and of the mitzva of yishuv haAretz.

Strangely, consideration of settling in Eretz Yisroel is overlooked by many in the Torah community. This most certainly is not the Torah view. The move to Eretz Yisroel must at least be considered, discussed, and investigated. As a musmach of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, who learned in kollel there for many years, then went on to serve the community I grew up in as rav of the North Miami Beach kehilla for nine years, and then, with the advice and encouragement of gedolim, was oleh to Eretz Yisroel several years ago, assuming the position of rav of Moshav Mattityahu - I feel that my experience may be instructive to the Torah world. I believe I can provide some insights gained on both sides of the ocean which will clarify the case for settling in Eretz Yisroel, and bring the topic to the forefront for personal deliberation. Perhaps others like me, neither exceptionally brave nor wealthy, may benefit from my perspective.

If living in Eretz Yisroel is viewed as “just a mitzva” (as I once heard someone say with a shrug), then all the considerations discussed above could be deterrents. But this is a mitzva which is “equal to all the rest,” it is fulfilled every moment with every part of one’s body, and it carries with it a host of other mitzvos which one can fulfill only by residing in Eretz Yisroel. Clearly, there is something more encompassing at issue than any single mitzva. Let us therefore suspend our analysis of practical questions while we address the larger picture. What is this particular Land, and living in it, all about?

The Role of the Jewish Nation

Some of what follows is basic and surely known to the reader. Nevertheless, as the Mesillas Yesharim warns, that which is basic and self-understood is often overlooked, ignored or forgotten.

Am Yisroel was selected by HaShem to be a sanctified nation whose raison d’etre would be to represent HaShem to the world in all areas - a “mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh.” The Torah was given to us to guide us - individually and collectively - in conforming with this lofty mission.

To achieve our goal, HaShem exhorted us to separate ourselves from the other nations. We are to be a nation apart, distinct in our holy purpose. As the Torah instructs, “Va’avdil eschem min ha’amim lihiyos li” (I separated you from the nations to be Mine). (Vayikra 20) The Sifrei comments on this verse: “If you are separated then you are Mine, but if not, you belong to Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts.” The simple meaning seems to be that if we separate ourselves, we will merit Divine protection, and if not, HaShem will deliver us into the hands of our enemies. The literal wording of the Sifrei, however, does not bear this explanation out. I would like to suggest an alternative one:

A non Jew is required to observe only seven mitzvos. His lifestyle can be secular, devoid of holiness. As long as he maintains harmony with the basic ethical code dictated by HaShem for civilization, he will merit a share in the world-to-come. One might conclude that a Jew living the same type of lifestyle, although remiss in the observance of 606 mitzvos, has a positive basis for his life - no worse than a non Jew. The Sifrei informs us otherwise. The Jew exists for an entirely different purpose: to create a mikdash - a place of holiness and sanctity where HaShem’s presence will be found, and felt. This mikdash finds expression in the person of every Jew. Thus, any Jew who fails to sanctify himself, to lead a life of exceptional holiness as defined by the Torah’s commandments, is in fact destroying his personal mikdash. He has joined the ranks of Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts, destroyers of the Mikdash.

To promote our being a “nation that dwells apart,” HaShem “measured every land and found no land more suitable to the Jewish people than Eretz Yisroel, and no people better suited to Eretz Yisroel than am Yisroel.” (Vayikra Rabba 13) Eretz Yisroel is a holy Land, the Land that HaShem personally supervises at all times, the Land that HaShem calls His own. Am Yisroel is the nation that is a holy nation - the nation that merits direct Divine providence, the nation that HaShem calls His own. Hence Eretz Yisroel and am Yisroel complement each other perfectly.

Eretz Yisroel provides the setting where we can develop our potential to be a sanctified nation unlike any other. (This, it should be noted, is the very antithesis of secular Zionist ideology, which envi sions Eretz Yisroel as the setting for us to develop at long last into a nation like all other nations, with all their vices and weaknesses.)

The idea of Eretz Yisroel as the home of a uniquely holy people is implied at the very beginning of the Torah. “The Torah should have commenced with hachodesh hazeh lachem, the first mitzva the Jewish people were commanded. Why then does it open with Bereishis…?” (Rashi on Bereishis 1, 1) The answer quoted by Rashi is the following: Lest the nations of the world claim that we are thieves who stole the land of seven nations, HaShem informs us that He created the world and it is therefore His to take away from whomever He chooses and to give to whomever He chooses.

This answer is not for the nations; obviously, they do not accept it. Rather it is we who are supposed to see clearly that Eretz Yisroel is legitimately ours, given to us by HaShem. But there is a deeper lesson here. Why was it ordained that we should have to conquer Eretz Yisroel from seven nations who inhabited it for hundreds of years? Why was it arranged that we should have to kill the men, women, and children of those nations? Why did Eretz Yisroel have to become ours in a manner so open to question that the whole Torah would have to start from Bereishis just to provide an answer?

It seems that HaShem sought to teach us a lesson so significant that it is the foundation of the entire Torah. It is the preface necessary before we can approach even the first mitzva. This lesson is that the basis of our ethics and morals, standards and values is one sole source - HaShem Yisbarach. If He says to conquer and kill, that is what is “ethical’ and “moral.” Where HaShem mandates mercy and peace, they are “ethical” in that case. Our value system can have no other basis than the written and oral Torah. By mandating the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in an apparently disputable manner, the Creator forced us to focus our attention on the only basis we have for our actions. He is the Creator of all that exists; only He can dictate proper conduct among the peoples and lands He created. Only on the basis of this reasoning are we not thieves nor murderers. The Torah, at the very outset, is laying the foundation for our frame of reference to mitzvos, and to the world.

It is not incidental that this lesson is taught through Eretz Yisroel. Our sources emphasize that only in the Land of Israel can a Torah society not influenced by foreign values and standards be created - a society based on the ethics and morals of Torah alone, a society apart, rooted in and enhanced by the special qualities of the Land.

This is something we neglect to study in the day-to-day pursuit of our lives as individuals. But since the ideal Torah society is something we yearn and pray for, it would be edifying to delve into the structure that it is meant to have.

The Brisker Rav, zt”l, explains (on parshas Chayei Sara) that klal Yisroel is comprised of two complementary factions. The first is made up of choice individuals whom the Rambam refers to as an extended “shevet Levi” - those devoted exclusively to Torah study and avodas HaShem. This is the elite corps of HaShem’s army, toiling in the yeshivos and kollelim, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. They create the spiritual energy source necessary for the survival of klal Yisroel and are therefore supported by the klal as were the Kohanim and Leviim. This group is the minority.

The other sector, comprising the majority of klal Yisroel, are those who follow the dictum of Rebbe Yishmael (Brachos 35) and combine Torah with a worldly occupation. Torah is, of course, the focal point of their lives, their worldly occupation secondary and peripheral. Nevertheless, Torah is not their exclusive pursuit.

I believe this thesis of the Brisker Rav has an analogous application to the Land. It too is to be divided into two sections. Yerushalayim is the primary domain of Kohanim and Leviim with the Beis HaMikdash at its center. The remainder of Eretz Yisroel is predominantly the territory of the other tribes.

The gemara (Pesachim 8) questions why the choice fruits of the Galil were not found growing in Yerushalayim instead, and why the hot springs of Teverya were not situated in Yerushalayim. The answer it gives is that when the Jewish people ascended to the Beis HaMikdash three times a year to fulfill the mitzva of aliya laregel, HaShem wanted them to perform the mitzva entirely “leshem shamayim.” He did not want them to have the possible ulterior incentive of delicious fruit or hot springs.

And yet, delicious fruits do grow in the Galil, and hot springs are found in Teverya, which are also part of Eretz Hakodesh. This fact points to an important insight into the total picture of Eretz Yisroel. Although Yerushalayim is reserved for the spiritual, the entire Land is holy. Yerushalayim it hakodesh is representative of shevet Levi and the unique role of that minority. The rest of this holy Land corresponds to the rest of our people and the majority role, which is the synthesis of spiritual and material.

The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Sukkah 36) explains that any occupation, undertaken in Eretz Yisroel, is included in the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, and it is in Eretz Yisroel that Rebbe Yishmael’s ruling (that one should take on a worldly occupation) applies! Agriculture or commerce, industry or social work, medicine or engineering… whatever helps settle the people in the Land, as this-wordly as it may seem, is, by definition, a mitzva in Eretz Yisroel. Consequently, the physical and material aspects of the Land are also objects of holiness, vehicles of service to HaShem.

This idea is further borne out by the Gra’s version of the bracha acharona. The Gra omits the phrase “and let us eat from its (Eretz Yisroel’s) fruit and be satiated from its goodness.” His source is the gemara in Sota (14). Of Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to enter Eretz Yisroel the question is asked: “Was it to eat from its fruit that he wished to enter the Land?! Rather his desire was to fulfill the mitzvos of the Land.” The implication is that eating from the fruit is not a commendable reason for desiring Eretz Yisroel and the Gra therefore omits it from the bracha.

How then can we understand the Gra’s version of the beginning of this bracha, which contains the following phrase: “… and for the desirable, good, and spacious Land that You desired and bequeathed to our forefathers to eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness….”

The discrepancy is explained when we apply the above-mentioned concept of a division of the Land of Israel. The opening part of the blessing refers to Eretz Yisroel as a whole. We mention the fruit since it is precisely through the fruit that we reach our goal of Divine service in greater Eretz Hakodesh. The conclusion of the bracha, however, refers specifically to the building of Yerushalayim, where reference to the fruits and material goodness is out of place.

The gemara in Sota pertains to Moshe Rabbeinu, a Levi whose place would have been in Yerushalayim. Hence the negative connotation of desiring to enter for the fruits.

The midrash (Bereishis Rabba 38, 8) relates that Avraham avinu traveled from land to land seeking the best place for his children to live. In Aram he observed people eating and drinking and partying, and he hoped that his descendants would not reside there. In contrast he observed the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel weeding and plowing and planting and hoped that this would be the dwelling-place of his offspring.

This midrash is surprising in that it points to qualities inherent in the atmosphere of a certain land. (The inhabitants of both these countries were, after all, idol-worshippers.)

The very air of chutz laAretz is conducive to materialism, to the utilization of the physical aspects of the world for immediate gratification and sensual stimulation - an olam hazeh approach. Eretz Yisroel, on the other hand, is conducive to toiling for future gratification, for future fruits - even in the material sense. This is an olam habba orientation. Avraham avinu recognized that in this setting his descendants would be able to realize their full potential, whatever their occupation.

It is true that the environment, whether of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz laAretz, can be overcome to a great extent. A Jew living outside the Land can resolve not to succumb to materialism. Even in Eretz Yisroel one who is determined to do so can lead a life of indulgence; after all, Sodom was in Eretz Yisroel. However, for one sincerely seeking to give HaShem the best service, Eretz Yisroel is the only place in the world providing a fertile, favorable environment. Not only in the past and in the future, but also in the present.

We are reminded daily of this truth. Every time we eat a meal, after satisfying our physical appetite, we are required by the Torah to recite birkas hamazon. It consists of three brachos of Torah origin and a fourth that is rabbinic. The first of the three Torah blessings acknowledges that HaShem is the source of all sustenance. The second thanks HaShem for the food and for Eretz Yisroel. It is in this bracha that we also mention HaShem’s covenant with us and the Torah. The third bracha is a prayer for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash and the Davidic dynasty.

Reciting all of this after each addition of a few ounces to our physical constitution, no matter where we live, may not seem particularly relevant. But it is. A Jew must focus his attention on the ultimate purpose of the creation of the material. Any thank-you for food must include mention of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim, for only through the Land of Israel are the world’s material components put to use in the most sublime and ideal fashion.

And yet we may imagine that we can daily acknowledge the ideal while continuing to live our own lives among the nations in a lessthan-ideal fashion. Dwelling apart would be nice, we may say, but as for me, blending in with my host country will suffice. The Torah tells us otherwise. If we dwell apart, then “Israel will dwell apart in security.” (Devarim 33) If, however, we choose not to do so willingly, then solitude of a different, nature will be forced upon us. “How does she dwell apart in solitude?” is, we will recall, the opening verse of Lamentations.

How often have we tried to assimilate! Yet we, like the oil which can never blend with other liquids, are doomed to remain separate. Rav Chaim Volozhiner put it succinctly: “If the Jew does not make kiddush then the goy makes havdala.” Either we separate and sanctify ourselves, or the matter will be taken care of for us in much more painful ways.

The ultimate “cure” for all the woes of the Jew among the nations can only be a return to our own Land, there to live a life absolutely unique in its sanctification.

Consider the verse: “No man will covet your Land when you ascend to greet the Presence of HaShem thrice yearly.” (Shemos 34) Would it not have been sufficient if no one took the Land? Why was it necessary to promise that no one would “covet” the Land?

In light of our discussion regarding the purpose of Eretz Yisroel, we can explain this verse in the following manner:

The Ibn Ezra explains that the prohibition of Lo sachmod - do not covet - demands that a person recognize that all possessions are Divinely ordained for their owners. One does not covet that which is totally removed from his sphere (e.g., the peasant does not desire the king’s daughter, whom he merely admires from afar).

With this in mind, the verse quoted above takes on new meaning. The Jewish people are to renew and revitalize their relationship to HaShem three times each year by immersion in the holiness of Yerushalayim. They then go home to live their everyday lives in Eretz Yisroel proper - a sanctified people in a sanctified society, observing numerous agricultural commandments with the produce of a sanctified Land. The nations of the world will recognize that Eretz Yisroel is something outside their orbit. Perceiving how ill-suited it is to their olam hazeh ways and goals, they will lose interest in it. It is only when we dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a secular manner comparable to theirs that the nations imagine it has relevance to them also - and that is when they covet the Land.

This is a general picture of the way things are meant to be for the people of Israel living in the Land of Israel. Although every person must act in accordance with his unique circumstances, the Jew must maintain an awareness of the task of klal Yisroel in Creation. While an individual Jew may reach a relatively high level anywhere, there is no possibility of fulfilling our national destiny except in Eretz Yisroel.

An important point for the ben Torah to consider is this: only those who accept the full implications of the Torah’s starting from Bereishis, as explained above, are in a position to bring HaShem’s plan to fruition.

It thus behooves us to readdress the question: Where is the aliya from the Torah communities of the West? Having dismissed so many excuses, I would now like to focus on what I believe are root causes.

Underlying Factors

One factor which should not be underestimated is Zionism. The secular Zionist movement sought to replace the Torah, which it rejected, with nationalism - the Land of Israel, the Hebrew language, and “culture” - as the sole foundation of Jewish identity.

This had a variety of consequences. One which is rarely discussed, but which is especially relevant and particularly tragic, is the effect on the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel. Somehow, G-d’s commandment seems to have become tainted by the Zionist idea. Interestingly enough, there is a precedent for de-emphasizing a mitzva when it is thus “cut off from the tree of life” by some. When the minim (early Christians) discarded the 613 mitzvos for the “Ten Commandments” exclusively, the Rabbis removed the recitation of these aseres hadibros from the tefilla. They feared that mentioning only these might mislead the masses into following the minim. They did not, however, stop observing the aseres hadibros! It is interesting to note that the need to cease publicly emphasizing the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, based on the above reasoning, was suggested ninety years ago by none other than Harav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l. (Hapeles, 5661, issues 1 - 4, quoted in Le’or Hanetzach pp. 121 - 122) Indeed, this could be one reason why gedolei Yisroel to this day do not publicly emphasize the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

For the Torah community, however, to fall into the trap of equating Zion with Zionism, and avoid the tremendous mitzva involved because it appears blemished, is a great tragedy.

Ben Gurion once said that if the Knesset voted for Shabbos observance, he would observe it as the law of the land. Would there then be justification for us to cease observing Shabbos because the Zionists were observing it for the wrong reason and in a distorted fashion?!

The Sadducees distorted the Yom Kippur service, the counting of the omer, the celebration of Shavuos, and countless other mitzvos. Did chazal then react by neglecting or ignoring these mitzvos? Rather they emphasized proper observance in defiance of the falsifiers, even in times when the Sadducees were in power and had the upper hand.

Therefore, the subtle negative effects of Zionism must be brought to the surface of our thinking, so that each of us can attack them in a rational fashion, without negating the importance of the Land or the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

The final element which must be confronted is a formidable one. It is the difficulty involved in aliya. The mitzva of tzitzis, after all - including all shitos and hiddurim - is one thing. Leaving one’s birthplace, family and friends, and all that is comfortable and familiar, is quite another. Nevertheless, the ability to do so, says Rav Chaim Volozhiner, exists potentially in the very fiber of every Jew. It is our legacy from our forefather Avraham, programmed into our spiritual genetic makeup ever since he heeded the command of “tech lecha” on that very first aliya laAretz. (Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos 5, 4)

The difficulties of yishuv Eretz Yisroel do not end when one arrives, just as one’s aliya does not stop at Lod Airport. Rather, it is an ongoing process of realizing ever higher goals. The hurdles are testified to by chazal as a permanent component of the mitzva and should not be considered a new result of modern bureaucracy. What chazal say about this is deserving of our consideration. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Israel three precious gifts, and all were given only through suffering. They are: Torah, Eretz Yisroel, and the world-to-come.” (Brachos 5) These words of our sages underscore something every Torah Jew knows: In serving HaShem we do not neglect a mitzva because it is difficult. That which comes hardest is often the most valuable, hence, the most precious gift.

Another category of “difficulty” must be mentioned. The learned and G-d fearing individual knows that Eretz Yisroel is the “palace of the King.” A higher, more exacting standard of behavior is demanded here. One might reason that he should not introduce himself into a situation that may demand more of him spiritually than he can deliver. He may therefore opt to remain in chutz laAretz rather than to abuse the sanctity of the Land. (Such logic might have validity for a Jew absolutely uninterested in Torah and mitzvos. In chutz laAretz, his transgressions would be less devastating. On the other hand, for such a person, settling in Eretz Yisroel might be the very thing that would provide a positive influence and move him to teshuva.)

By the above line of reasoning, all Torah study should cease. The more one learns, after all, the more is demanded of him. The higher his level, the more strictly is he judged. Should he not therefore opt to learn as little as possible so as not to magnify his failings and avoid abusing the sanctity of the Torah? The fallacy here is that we are required by the Torah constantly to elevate ourselves, to accept added responsibility. The Torah we possess will aid us in accommodating ourselves to our raised level. Likewise the merit and kedusha of Eretz Yisroel will elevate us, actually aiding us to live properly in the King’s palace. Furthermore, if we are in danger of transgressing despite Torah learning and Eretz Yisroel, how much lower would we fall without their saving powers. (See Michtav MeEliyahu, vol. II, pp. 54 - 55)

In Conclusion

No, Eretz Yisroel is not “just another mitzva.” For ben Torah or baal bayis it represents an elevation to higher levels of sanctity in every aspect of life, availability of mitzvos which cannot be fulfilled anywhere else, and the potential - however remote it may appear for the moment - of a consummate Torah society.

To our great dismay, the geula has not yet come. According to our gedolim we are living in ikvesa dimeshicha, the last stage of golus. Ours is a time of paradoxes and great tests. On the one hand we have witnessed many miraculous and marvelous events. We have been zocheh that a large portion of Eretz Yisroel has been returned to Jewish hands and is thriving and flourishing. Aliya is now within the relatively easy grasp of millions of Jews. HaShem in His kindness has granted us access once again to our mekomos kedoshim (the Kosel Hamaaravi, Me’aras Hamachpela, Kever Rochel…).

At the same time, however, a secular government with a secular system of law reigns in Israel today, a government that can be hostile to Torah values and Torah-observant Jews. The media may, on occasion, spew forth such hatred for Torah that one can only be astounded and deeply ashamed that the language of such blasphemy is Hebrew. Missionaries peddle their wares, apparently unchecked. We must demonstrate against public chillul Shabbos and other types of desecration. The confusion over “Who is a Jew” and the introduction of the deviationist Conservativism and Reform even in this holy Land add to our heartache. All of these shadows loom over Eretz Yisroel.

And yet, there is so much light. Yeshivos and other mekomos Torah are proliferating at an unbelievable pace and are bursting at the seams. Thousands of previously estranged Jews are returning to our Torah heritage. Torah cities thrive and new ones are being built, Torah neighborhoods with all their accoutrements flourish in all the major cities, and even Torah moshavim and kibbutzim dot the map of the Land.

Chazal have instructed us that it is better to dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a city that is predominantly non-Jewish than to dwell in chutz laAretz, even in a city predominantly Jewish. (Kesubos 110) This does not mean that living in the band of Israel per se is more important than living in a Torah environment. But rather, I recently heard the idea that in Eretz Yisroel, the potential for positive change is inherent. The trend is for more and more Jews to come and transform the previously non-Jewish city into a Jewish one. Chutz laAretz, on the other hand, is doomed to negative change for the Jew. Permanence is, by definition, impossible there. Neighborhoods are destined to flourish temporarily, wane, and ultimately fall into non-Jewish hands. (Who has not seen this?)

So, if the dark patches described above trouble you, think in terms of potential for change. Imagine the impact of an influx of hundreds of thousands, or even thousands, of Torah-observant Jews, rabbanim, mechanchim, bnei Torah, and balebatim - men, women and children - on society in Israel and on the very character of the “Jewish State.”

Lest the reader think that mere numbers are not the issue, let me cite an exchange reported to have taken place between the Chazon Ish and Ben Gurion. The prime minister had asked the gaon’s prediction of who would ultimately be victorious in shaping Israeli society - the secularist camp or the Torah camp. The answer of the Chazon Ish was: “I am not a prophet, but I am certain that we will win out in the end. Our birthrate exceeds yours by far and one day we will be the majority!”

And if you are concerned that Israel may be unable to accommodate a vast influx, socially and economically, take this into consideration: I have heard secular Israeli leaders say that they would welcome and be able to handle tremendous numbers of immigrants. If they, presumably relying and depending on their “own” resources and means, feel so sure, how much more should we, who trust in the Ribbono shel olam? Eretz Yisroel is referred to as “Eretz Tzvi” (the Land like a deer). Just as a deer’s skin constantly expands to accommodate its growth, so too Eretz Yisroel can always accommodate additional Jews. As Rav Sonnenfeld put it, “When children return to their mother’s home there is no question of space. They squeeze together to sit but the mother never complains of lack of room.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 153)

HaShem Yisbarach has blessed us with wonderful gifts in our generation. It stands to reason that He is watching to see if we appreciate all that He has done. Do we consider it sufficient to admire from afar, and maybe visit once in a while? Or are we grateful enough to sacrifice some physical and material comforts in order to benefit from these spiritual luxuries? Perhaps an exhibition of genuine appreciation of His gifts will earn us the final crowning of a hastened geula!

With all of this, however, it would be overstated to advocate unconditionally that every religious Jew pick up and leave the diaspora tomorrow. Each individual situation must be studied carefully, and all of the legitimate factors considered.

This means asking a posek. During my years of experience as a community rav, I was impressed by the number of balebatim who, for example, would not break their fast on Taanis Esther despite a serious headache, without a psak halacha. Is such conscientiousness nothing more than a big show on a small matter? I prefer to believe it is the expression of a genuine desire to fulfill HaShem’s will. If it is, it would not allow the Jew to exempt himself from a mitzva as important, as all-encompassing, as yishuv Eretz Yisroel, before asking a shaila. One should not interpret the absence of public exhortations from gedolim on this or any other issue to be an indication of a negative attitude or even of indifference. There are a great many factors which may mandate public silence on some matter, even one viewed favorably, even one of great importance, even a question of mitzva and aveira.

If in the final analysis your particular circumstances dictate that you yourself remain in chutz laAretz, be ever sensitive to the fact that you are missing something. Recognize that no Jewish community in chutz laAretz - Y rum” and established though it may be - can ever replace Eretz Yisroel. If this is an important awareness for the lay individual, it is crucial for the teacher or community leader. In striving to raise the level of Torah and mitzva observance of those under your influence, you should stress the inevitable incompleteness of Jewish life outside the Land of Israel.

If you do not merit settling in Eretz Yisroel presently, aspire and fervently pray for the day when your circumstances will change, so that you will be able to fulfill this mitzva and reap the spiritual benefits of living in our holy Land. It would also be advantageous to visit Eretz Yisroel from time to time if your finances permit, to keep the fires of your dreams and aspirations glowing. The Chazon Ish (Kovets Igros, vol. 1, no. 176) supports this recommendation.

It is not sufficient to admire and appreciate the advantages and benefits of Eretz Yisroel in theory. In part this was the sin of the spies who, while extolling the beauty and goodness of the Land, lacked the bitachon to take advantage of those merits and concretize their personal connection to the Land. Rav Yaakov Emden, in his Siddur, emphasizes this point. “The mere hint of facing towards Yerushalayim when we pray is only sufficient when more than that is impossible. But, if we are not prevented by circumstance from physically being in Eretz Yisroel, then just facing in its direction will not suffice. Therefore, every Jew must resolve in his heart to settle in Eretz Yisroel as soon as he has the means to finance his move and to be able to eke out a meager livelihood by means of a trade or business…. Don’t think to become entrenched in chutz laAretz for this was the sin of our forefathers who `despised the desirable Land.’ This sin has caused all the calamities in our golus. We have been like one totally forgotten because we have completely forgotten the mitzva to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.”

Other Torah sages too have warned of becoming too settled in chutz laAretz. Some even went so far as to prohibit the erection of permanent stone dwellings outside of Eretz Yisroel. The Keli Yakar at the beginning of parshas Vayechi explains why the date of the arrival of Mashiach was hidden from us: to prevent us from becoming too settled in foreign lands, and losing the sense of anticipation of his arrival and of our imminent return to Eretz Yisroel. He goes on to bemoan the lack of success of even this measure, noting that so many Jews feel so settled in the lands of their dispersion that they build luxurious, permanent homes, and ignore even the possibility (let alone the fervent desire) that Mashiach may come at any moment and bring us all back to the Land of Israel.

We must refrain from feeling settled and fulfilled as long as we are outside the Land. This attitude need not lead to melancholy but should instead actually enhance one’s spiritual life. It affords direction in aspiring towards the proper values and lifestyle. Interestingly, it may also provide physical protection for the community in which one resides now, as illustrated by the following account from the Shearis Yisroel, in the name of Rav Yehoshua Falk, the author of the SMA.

The city of Worms was devastated twice during the Crusades. Why did a city blessed with pious Torah scholars merit such a fate? When Ezra hasofer returned to Eretz Yisroel to begin his work on the second Beis HaMikdash, he sent letters to all the major kehillos of the time inviting them to return with him. The kehilla of Worms, which had been established since the destruction of the first Temple, responded: “Peace unto you, Ezra hasofer! May you be successful in establishing the grand Beis HaMikdash in the grand Yerushalayim. We, however, will remain here in our `small Yerushalayim’ and with our mikdash meat, our small Temple.” This attitude, tragically common even in our own day, spiritually blemished the city to such an extent that it was especially vulnerable to the attacks of the Crusaders many years later.

And if in fact your personal circumstances do not exempt you from fulfilling this magnificent mitzva, then do not delay. If you keep in mind the benefits which will accrue to you personally, as well as the tremendous advantage to the klal, you will surely act with alacrity. Preparations need not be elaborate. The most important preparation that one can make is learning and teaching his family the importance of Eretz Yisroel in the total picture of avodas HaShem - for each Jew, and for the Jewish nation.

The sefarim relate the minhag of leaving the doors to one’s home unlocked all through the night of Pesach. This was in keeping with the tradition that an opportune time for our future geula will be the anniversary of our first one (geulas Mitzrayim). Eager for the advent of Eliyahu hanavi to herald the geula, we do not wish to delay the process even the few seconds it would take to unlock the door.

We are all anxiously awaiting the geula daily. To come and await Mashiach in Eretz Yisroel will avoid much needless delay when he arrives.

May HaShem Yisbarach grant us the ability to hear the echoes of Rav Sonnenfeld’s call: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?” May we be blessed with the perceptiveness to respond, “We are investigating, we are preparing, we are on our way!”

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Video: American Olim Rock!


An immigrant from Seattle opens an American-style dog grooming parlour in Raanana, Israel!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Second Snow, Yawn, in Jerusalem (Video & Photos)


A second heavy snowfall hit Yerushalayim today. Unlike last month's this one did not shutdown the city at all. Below is what it looked like...








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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lessons From Olive Oil



You must command the Israelites to bring you clear illuminating oil, made from hand-crushed olives, to keep the lamps burning constantly. (Shemos/Exodus 27:20)

The MeAm Lo’ez teaches:


It is well known that from the time that Moses was born until he died, he did not have an hour of rest. When he was born, his mother placed him in the Nile. As soon as he was rescued from the Nile, he was brought before Pharaoh. There he put a coal in his mouth and had his tongue burned, as has been discussed at length in earlier sections.

After that, as a result of the actions of Dathan and Aviram, Moses was forced to flee. After he fled from Pharaoh, the angel wanted to kill him because he had delayed circumcising his son.

Besides this, it is impossible to imagine the suffering he endured from the Israelites during the 40 years that they were in the desert. There were wars with Sichon and Og, which we shall discuss in forthcoming sections.

Throughout this, Moses was forbearing and tolerant, as the Torah says, “The man Moses was very humble, more so than any human being” (Numbers 12:3). It was as a result of this that Moses reached a higher spiritual level than any other human being, as it is written, “There has not risen another prophet in Israel like Moses, who knew God face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

The Israelites could also learn a lesson from the olive oil itself. In order to obtain the oil, the olive must be crushed in a mortar, and then ground in a mill. Only then can the oil be extracted so that it can provide light for the world.

The same is true of Israel. Although they are hounded and persecuted by the nations, who insult them, make them suffer, beat them, and take their money, they should not become discouraged by this terrible suffering. They should not give up their sacred Torah and not complain or grumble. Rather, they should accept everything with love, since in the end, they will see good. In the end, they will bring light to all the world.


God thus said to Moses, “And you must command the Israelites that they bring to you pure olive oil, pressed for the lamp.” You must command the Israelites to have forbearance and humility, just as you do. This is something that only you, and no one else, can tell them. You have suffered much, and have experienced many troubles. They should also take a lesson from the olive, which must be crushed and bruised before it yields the pure oil that illuminates the world.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Adar Aleph 5768



The month of Adar Aleph begins this Thursday! (Wednesday is also Rosh Chodesh!)

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.


Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

On 1 Adar Aleph:

Garlic
Nectarine
Peaches

On 7 Adar Aleph:

Medlar (Shesek)

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect:

Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Basil
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Etrog
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mint
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pineapple
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Scallion
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
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Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Adar Aleph:

Strawberries

On 7 Adar Aleph:

Onions

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Fennel
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Radish
Radish-Small
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
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Biur

There are no items that require Biur this month.

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:

Fennel

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Final Thoughts And Photos on the Winter Storm of 5768


As the last few stubborn patches of snow melt away I wanted to share a few more pictures I took and a wonderful thought.


These were taken on Thursday morning which was relatively warm and sunny.


Dogs, kids, just about everyone was playing in the snow.


And the roads slowly turned back to normal.


But I wanted to share something that no one seems to point out.



It’s a truly amazing thing when you see it with your own eyes.



If these pictures don’t prove how rain (and snow) on Eretz Yisrael are a direct gift from our father-in-heaven.


And a most beautiful gift indeed.



Isn’t it?


But just look at this radar capture taken in the midst of the storm. The rain and snow falls literally only within the biblical borders of Eretz Yisrael – and just stops – just like that – as soon as the clouds pass over the border...

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Photos: Snow in Jerusalem


I took the photos below on my way to work today in Jerusalem. Enjoy!




















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Video: Snow in Jerusalem




An uncommon heavy snowfall hit Jerusalem today turning bustling streets and busy shopping centers into ghost towns. This video was taken on Jerusalem’s usually very busy Kanfei Nesharim Street which is also in one of the higher altitude areas of the city.

Photos, Bez"H are on the way!

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kumah's Tu B'Shevat Seder



Does anyone know what tomorrow is?

If you are living in the United States of America you will probably answer “Of course - it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

No, silly! Tomorrow night is Tu B’Shvat!

(Those of you in Israel would say “Of course – It’s Tu B’Shvat tomorrow night!” And would say – “Really? MLK day? I had no idea!”)

Tu B’Shvat – yet another reason to make Aliyah. Here this “forgotten holiday” is actually widely celebrated. The sad truth is (even though, or perhaps because, I grew up in Yeshivish surroundings) I never even heard of a Tu B’shvat seder until I actually made Aliyah. Here everybody makes them.

Last year Kumah’s own Malkah put together an absolutely stunning Tu B’shvat Haggadah! (Special thanks the Yechiel for helping us dig it up.)

DOWNLOAD IT IN PDF FORMAT BY CLICKING HERE!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Making "Making Aliyah" Too Easy



Making Aliyah has become easier than ever before in history. Conventional wisdom dictates that this is a good thing. And that the easier making Aliyah becomes the more Jews will return home to Israel.

But is that always true? Could it be possible that if making Aliyah were way too easy there would be Jews that upon experiencing something in their homeland that they don’t particularly like - they would simply throw everything away?

Now wait a second before you start telling me I sound a bit deluded. Look at the very first pasuk (verse) of last week's Parsha.

Pharaoh had let the people go. G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was shorter. G-d said, “The people might change their minds when they encounter war, and return to Egypt.” (Shemos 13:17)

Contrary to popular belief the Meam Loez explains:
Pharaoh had personally escorted the Israelites when they left Egypt, and had asked them to pray for him. The Torah therefore states that “Pharaoh had sent forth the people.” He had escorted them, hoping to entice them to pray for him. (Shemos Rabbah;Zohar on lech lecha).

Some say they G-d repaid Pharaoh for this good deed by giving the commandment, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a guest in his land” (Devarim 23:8) (S.R. cit in Yeffeh Toar).

All the Egyptian aristocrats accompanied the Israelietes until they came to Etham (13:20). Pharaoh and his men went along with the Israelites until they left Egypt. Pharaoh also sent many of his officials to accompany them on the way. (Targum Yonason; Rashi).

The Jews were slaves in Egypt. Whether or not they took to heart this fact that they were slaves in someone else’s land - they felt safe and secure there. They felt at home. And they felt that Pharaoh had their best interest in mind.

This is a very important point! “Pharaoh had let the people go.” The Jews did not feel like slaves escaping.

As the Meam Loez puts it:
Slaves escaping their master do not return. But since Pharoah had even gone so far as to escort them, they were left with good feelings toward Egypt. At the slightest hint of hostility, they would run back into Pharoah’s arms.

G-d knew the shortest route from Egypt to Israel leads straight through Gaza!

As the Meam Loez tells us - that route was problematic:
The logical route from Egypt to Canaan would take the Israelites along the Mediterranean coast through the Philistine territory. Although this was the shortest path, G-d did not let the Israelites use it.

G-d did not let the Israelites take this road precisely because it was short. If anything had frightened them, it would have been too easy for them to return to Egypt. G-d knew that the slightest hostility might cause them regret leaving Egypt and drive them to return.

Today, when Jews makes Aliyah from America, they certainly don’t feel like slaves escaping. One wonders if today as well, at the sight of hostility (such as in Gaza perhaps) would the American Jew run back into Pharoah’s arms?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

EHS: Rav Sonnenfeld: Don't be a Spy!


(AFP)

Eim Habanim Semeichah - Page 506:

I also saw in Eileh Mas'ei an idea which the righteous mentor of Eretz Yisrael, R. Sonnenfeld, used to say [on the verse] And you shall see the goodness of Jerusalem (Tehillim 128:5): One must always see only the good of Eretz Yisrael, that is, the positive sides of Jerusalem. One must be careful not to be a "spy," G-d forbid. The spies were punished because they slandered Eretz Yisrael at a time when there were no Jews there; how much more so now, when there are many Jews in the Land.

Praise to my beloved friend, the young and exceptionally sharp scholar, the magnate, our master, R. Eliezer Sussman shlita, the son of our brilliant and righteous master, R. Efrayim Fischel Sofer z"l, rabbi and av beit din of [Budapest]. He copied for me parts of a manuscript of his father's eulogy for our brilliant mentor, R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld:

Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem, and who will bemoan you, O beloved Land! He never cursed anyone, under any circumstances. He was distressed more than anyone else about those who came and defiled the Land by desecrating the holy Sabbath, eating forbidden foods, and eating leavened bread on Pesach. He invoked merit upon these lost souls, saying, "The Land which they work with such great devotion will bring them back to the proper path and purify their hearts."

He would rebuke anyone who even slightly slandered the residents of the Holy City. He once told me that the Shulchan Aruch states that righteous people fast on the seventeenth of Elul because of the spies, who spread the evil report about the Land died on that day. The Magen Avraham asks, does it not say, When the wicked perish, there is jubilation (Mishley 11:10)? The Shelah answers that the spies were righteous men (tzaddikim.) Thus, even tzaddikim can be spies!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Shevat 5768




The month of Shevat began this past Tuesday!

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.


Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it starts this month.

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect:

Artichoke
Asparagus
Avocado
Banana
Basil
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Etrog
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mint
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pineapple
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Scallion
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Shevat:

Celery
Eggplant

On 10 Shevat:

Fennel

On 15 Shevat:

Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers

On 25 Shevat:

Watermelon

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Radish
Radish-Small
Tomatoes
Turnip
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

On 1 Shevat:

Fennel




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Mr. President, Somewhere the Sun is Shining


(AP)

Mr. Bush learned an important lesson this morning. A basic fundamental in Judaism is that while man indeed has free will to choose good or evil, everything down to the smallest detail is controlled by God. These are not contradictory.

So the President "made a request to watch the sun rise over the Old City from his suite at the King David Hotel." What a plan! Israel officials had even better plans. "To make the scene more dramatic, the authorities [planned] to turn off the lights illuminating the limestone walls before dawn." Brilliant! (Haaretz even wrote about what the president would be thinking at that time and called Mr. Bush a courageous man and even praised him for being a God fearing man. Imagine liberal Haaretz ever calling a staunch conservative courageous! Or ever praising anyone for being God fearing!)

So what did the President see when he looked out his $2,500 a night Presidential Suite at the King David Hotel at 5:30 in the morning? Brilliant rays of the sun peeking over the ancient walls? Golden halos sheening off the Dome of the Rock? Actually he probably didn't even see the artist neighborhood of Yamin Moshe just meters below right outside his hotel window. See, as the Yiddish expression goes, "Men tracht und Gott lacht." Man plans, and G-d laughs! Man proposes, God disposes.

As Mr. Bush pulled apart the posh hotel curtains he didn't see the sunrise scene that he and Israel authorities has planned. What he saw was probably nothing. A thick fog moved in overnight along with some heavy rain and even a bit of snow. By morning the fog was so heavy the President's entourage had to cancel plans for him to fly by helicopter to Ramallah and chose to drive instead.

Indeed President George W. Bush is a God-fearing man. And perhaps he, and all the leaders of the world should heed the advice of another God-fearing leader. The leader from whom the hotel Mr. Bush is staying by gets its name. King David wrote: "The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples." Psalms 33:10

(AP)

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Words Can't Add Anything To These Photos!




20 Photos From Thursday's NBN Winter 2007 Aliyah Flight








































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Friday, December 21, 2007

Yerushalayim, Sir, Yerushalayim!



Dear Sir,

A few weeks ago I started receiving an unusual type of spam in my work email. I was subscribed (without my permission) to your excellent halacha mailing list. (It happens to be a wonderful idea and I wish you much success with this endeavor.) While I felt it was not proper derech eretz to subscribe someone to a list without their permission, even if it is for Torah, ("derech eretz kadmah laTorah" after all), especially using someone's work and not personal email address, it is still nice to learn a few halachos a day. Surely no one would object to Torah and this no doubt was exactly what the conceivers of this new Halacha list were thinking when they scoured the web looking for any email addresses they could find listed on the Internet of people working at frum organizations.

The email I received read:
Welcome to the Daily halacha e-mail!

Two short halacha's each day - Monday through Friday - plus Friday a special Halacha L'kovod Shabbos and candle lighting times for NYC.

The last part upset me. You listed candle-lighting times for "the heart and soul" of the Jewish people, New York City - but completely omitted Yerushalayim! So I wrote to you:
Please unsubscribe me.

I don't need to be part of a mailing list that forgets to list lighting time for Yerushalyaim Ir Hakodesh!

Kol Tuv,
Pinchas

And you promptly replied:
Hi Pinchas,
You have been unsubscribed.
We do not list lighting time for Yerushalayim because we only have some 50 subscribers from EY, but we have 2500 in the NY area. I hope you understand that.
Of course I understood - but there was even more that you didn't understand! Still I decided not to pursue the matter until today. When I was once again subscribed to this list but this time you used my Kumah mailing address (and presumably everyone else here at Kumah.)

Well, if you are going to start emailing Kumah we are going to explain to you, and all our visitors why omitting mention of Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh is not a light matter. It demonstrates the golus-yid's (exile Jew's) total and complete detachment from his roots.

Now let us forget the obvious question of how you could claim you only have 50 subscribers from Eretz Yisrael, when you are subscribing people without permission and don't even know who we are or where we live. Let us set that aside. Let us pretend all 2550 subscribers were living in New York City, the center of the Jewish world, after all. I would still argue that Yerushalayim should be mentioned if another city is listed.

I quote Gil Troy, who wrote:
In synagogues throughout the world, when taking the Torah out of the Ark, Jews sing "kee mi tzion tezeh Torah, u davar Hashem me'Yerushalayim," the Torah will come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. "Zion," the Biblical name for Jerusalem, is not just the three-thousand-year-old capital of the Jewish people, it is the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual center of Jewish gravity. Mentioned over six hundred times in the Bible, it was the city of David the heroic, who conquered it, and of Solomon the wise, who built the first of the two Temples there. During the many centuries of exile, Jerusalem symbolized both the glorious past of the Jewish people -and their hopes for the future. Much of Jewish prayer, in fact, entailed reflecting on what once was in Jerusalem as a way of conceptualizing what again might be there.
Sir, the Jew must always be focused on Yerushalayim. The clearest example of this we learn from celebrating Purim in Yerushalayim on the 15th of Adar. Our sages explained that because of the extra day needed in Shushan, that city would celebrate a day later then the rest of the world. But this presented a dilemma! How dare could the Jewish people honor the Persian city, the New York City of the day, above Yerushalayim? What an embarrassment to Yerushalayim it would be - even if only 50 Jews lived there at the time! A solution was devised (all cities that were walled in the time of Yehoshua Ben Nun would celebrate on the 15th and this would include Yerushalayim) just to avoid this embarrassment and to keep Yerushalayim central in the minds of the Jewish nation.

Today, more than ever, at a time when the nations of the world and some of our misguided Jewish brethren speak openly about plans to divide Yerushalayim, about plans to rip apart our true heart and soul, is it absolutely imperative that we ALWAYS keep Yerushalayim in mind and that we not forget about it while giving other cities precedence. For if we ourselves forget about Yerushalayim how could we have the audacity to complain to others about the injustice of dividing it?

So I repeat, and I speak for everybody at Kumah.org (and Neozionist.com). Please unsubscribe all the accounts you signed up from our organization so long as you continue to forget to list the candle-lighting time for Yerushalayim ahead of the candle-lighting time for New York City.


I will close with Mr. Troy's eloquent words:
"Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemeeni": If I forget, if I FORSAKE, you O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth. If we abandon Jerusalem, we betray the essence of our being, that which makes us human, our hands and our mouths, our bodies and our souls.

UPDATE: After 5 days we did NOT get a reply, though we were unsubscribed from their mailing list immediately. Presumably the still forget Jerusalem...

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tevet 5768




The month of Tevet began this past Monday!

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.


Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

1 Tevet

Avocado

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect:

Artichoke
Asparagus
Banana
Basil
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Etrog
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mint
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pineapple
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Scallion
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Tevet:

Tomatoes

On 5 Tevet:

Kohlrabi

On 10 Tevet:

Cabbage (Red)

On 15 Tevet:

Broccoli

On 20 Tevet:

Carrots

On 25 Tevet:

Cauliflower


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Beets
Cabbage
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Lettuce
Melon
Parsley
Peas in Pod
Radish
Radish-Small
Turnip
Zucchini (Squash)


Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

There are no items that will require biur this month.



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Friday, December 07, 2007

Publicizing the Miracle At The Kotel



A new, large and magnificent Menorah was placed at the Western Wall Plaza this year and festivities are being be held every night! This is what the third night looked like with Mayor Uri Lupolianski, mayor of Jerusalem, the Rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and Police Commissioner Aharon Franko.


Don't miss out!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Analysis: Left Is Running Out Of Time


(Photo: AP)

Last week a very important, but easily overlooked story was reported in the Israeli media. Arutz Sheva reported it as well. I am pasting it below. I have written about this in the past. In a nutshell, the powers that be on the political and religious left realize they will not remain in power much longer as their population dwindles.


In March 2005 the Jewish Observer quoted a CBS Machon Yerushalyim study that found 50% of the Charadi population to be below the age of 8. The Dati Leumi population was likewise as young and growing just as fast. Simply put that means in 10-18 years, the voting power of these two demographics will double. Actually the hard number of legal voters in this population will double but the voting power may triple or even quadruple when you combine that fact with the statistic that shows non-religious couples were have a birth rate of only 1.2 per couple. A significant power shift in the next generation is obvious.

Fast-forward three and half years. What we see today is the geometric change is in fact occurring. This means not only will the change happen but the rate of the change will increase dramatically as each year passes. Today the latest statistics show just about half the population considers themselves traditional, a third religious, and only one in five call themselves secular - just half of what it was 35 years ago. It is no stretch by any means to say in another 35 years the secular population will consist of less that 10% of Israel, while the religious population will make up well over 50% of the country.

These statistics, nor their clear predictions, are a secret. And so this is why we are finding the left trying to inflict as much "damage" as they can while they can. For they know if their ideological goals are not realized now, today, they most likely will never be - ever!

The Arutz-7 article follows:

Israel Becoming Less Secular
15 Kislev 5768, 25 November 07 02:44
by Hillel Fendel

(IsraelNN.com) An Israel Democratic Institute (IDI) demographic survey finds religious growth and secular decline - but most significant is that the proportion of religious in the public is highest among the youth.

The percentage of Jews describing themselves as secular has dropped sharply over the past 30 years, while the religious and traditional proportions have risen. The annual survey finds that the secular public comprises only 20% of the Israeli population - compared to 41%, more than twice as much, in 1974.

Nearly half the population, 47%, describes itself as traditional, while the hareidi-religious and religious-Zionist together comprise 33% of the public.

The numbers were compiled based on a survey of representative sampling of 1,016 Israelis Jews.

Tradition Reigns
Over the past seven years, according to IDI statistics, the proportion of secular Jews has dropped sharply from 32% to 20% today. The "traditionalists" have traditionally had the lead in polls of this nature - except for one year in 1974, when they trailed the seculars, 41% to 38%.

Other findings show that the Sephardic population is much more traditional and religious than the Ashkenazic sector. Ashkenazic Jews are those originating from European (Christian) countries, whereas Sephardic Jews lived in the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal), African and Middle Eastern (Moslem) countries. Only 7% of the Sephardim describe themselves as secular, compared to 36% of the Ashkenazim. At the same time, 56% of the Sephardim are religious or hareidi, compared to only 17% of the Ashkenazim.

39% of those under age 40 are religious - more than those in their 40's and 50's (32%), and much more than those aged 60 and over (20%).

It can be inferred from the numbers that Israel is a traditional society, and that it will become even more so as the years go by.

Country is Right-Wing; the Religious - Even More So
Politically, the religious are more right-wing, but so are the others. Among the religious, many more identify with the right than with the left, by a 71-8 margin; among the traditional, it's 49-21, and among the secular, it's 43-27. In total, 55% of the population view themselves as right-wing, and only 18% are to the left.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Like Straw!




Because of the day you stood aloof, the day strangers plundered his wealth, foreigners entered his gates and they cast lots on Jerusalem - you were like one of them! (Obadiah 1:12)

This is what we read in this past week's Haftorah. You, nations of the world, should not "stand aloof," let alone encourage our enemies to "cast lots" upon Jerusalem.

Indeed the holy city of Jerusalem, herself, rumbles in outrage at such an evil notion. (Three earthquakes in one week!) Jerusalem is stronger than anyone. You can not defeat her. You my try...

But on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, and it shall become holy; and the House of Jacob will inherit its inheritors. The house of Jacob will be a fire and the House of Joseph a flame - and the House of Esau like straw; they will kindle among them and consume them; and there will be no surviver of the House of Esau, for Hashem has spoken! (ibid. 1:17-18)

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Surprise: More Jewish Poverty In U.S. Than Israel



That's what Haaretz's Ruth Sinai reports:


Study claims Jewish poverty rate in the U.S. is higher than in Israel


Some highlights:

- "Jewish poverty rate in the United States is higher than that in Israel."

- "One of every five Jews among Chicago's 270,000 Jews is poor or almost poor according to the federal government's definition."

- "New York also has a high rate of Jewish poverty."

- "More than a quarter of the members of the world's richest Jewish community live close to the poverty line."

- "The highest poverty rate is in Brooklyn."

So the next you hear anyone say "Make Aliyah? But there a so many poor people in Israel," simply show them this post. This is actually one of the excuses I do hear. People have said "You talk about how great Eretz Yisrael is, why don't you talk about all the poverty over there?"

How's this? We'll start talking about poverty in Israel when you start talking about poverty in Jewish America? Deal?

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Kislev 5768




The month of Kislev begins this coming Sunday!

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

NOTE: Olive Oil that contains Kedushat Shevi'it can not be used to light the menorah on Chanukah. However this will not really be an issue until next Chanukah (and the Chanukah following that one) as there will be no Olive Oil on the market from the 7th year for almost another whole year.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no new items that begin being treated as having Kedushat Shevi'it this month.

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect:

Artichoke
Asparagus
Banana
Basil
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Etrog
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mint
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pineapple
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Scallion
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Kislev:

Coriander
Parsley


On 5 Kislev:

Cucumbers

On 20 Kislev:

Beets

On 25 Kislev:

Cabbage
Melon


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Corn (Fresh)
Dill
Lettuce
Peas in Pod
Radish
Radish-Small
Turnip
Zucchini (Squash)



Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

There are no items that will require biur this month.



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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guess What I Spotted On My Way Home?


I guess it's not unusual to spot flashing lights and blaring music and other strange things on the street at the end of October. What about children running around with torches? Well last week on my way home from work this is what I spotted.



(Thank Ezra for teaching me to always carry around a camera.) It was a Hachnosas Sefer Torah - a dedication for a new Torah scroll - and it's a very ordinary occurrence in Yerushalayim and all over Eretz Yisrael! Borach Hashem!



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Monday, October 22, 2007

Live Feed From Kever Rochel




Rachel, our Mother, died on the 11th of Heshvan 3,561 years ago.

Below is a live feed from Kever Rochel.



Stream provided by keverrochel.com. Please visit thier site!

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Rainbow Connection




Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And why does it always rain on the week of Parshas Noach? Those are questions people always ask. And sure enough the first two Parshas Noachs after I made Aliyah it poured! So this past week as the sun shined brightly we thought we were in trouble there. But have no fear! Sure enough clouds moved in later in the afternoon and delivered a light but steady sprinkle which I guess could be considered the very first rain of 5768 in Yerushalayim.

Tonight however I walked home from work surrounded by an awesome lightening show. The rain, very heavy at times, started falling as I got home. We started praying for rain just a few weeks ago on Simchas Torah! Rain in Israel in the winter months is a sign of blessing and a great simcha (joy)! What a country where we videotape the rain falling!

In a related note all this rain and Parshas Noach remined me of Kermit the frog and his words of pure genius! This song is SOOOO deep! Enjoy!



The Rainbow Connection

Written by Paul Williams and used by Kermit the Frog, of The Muppets, Jim Henson Productions

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
and someone believed it,
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.

All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic....

Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, la la, La, la la la, La Laa, la la, La, La la laaaaaaa

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

What the Ingathering of the Exiles Will Look Like


People ask me why I follow the happenings of the "Yated world" especially here on Kumah. The truth is that this "Yated world," while claiming (and I believe the claims) to have a deep love for Eretz Yisrael they still don't "get it." But I'm convinced that one day - one day they will wake up and "get it" at last, and then another stream of the floodgates of Aliyah will stream forth. In the meantime they will write beautiful articles about how wonderful it is to visit Eretz Yisrael. Yes, one day they will "get it" - one day. Till then though they'll write things like this (bold mine):

"Watching Jews of all stripes streaming to the Kosel, parading down the ancient streets of the Old City of Yerushalayim with their lulavim held aloft, I couldn't help think that this is what the kibbutz goliyos will look like."

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Cheshvan 5768




The month of Cheshvan begins this coming Shabbat! (Parshat Noach)

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. For more information on what these dates mean see here.


Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

Two more items should begin being treated as having Kedushat Shevi'it this month including:


On 3 Cheshvan

Artichoke

On 15 Cheshvan

Potatoes

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect:

Asparagus
Banana
Basil
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Corn (Fresh)
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Etrog
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mint
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pineapple
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Scallion
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)


Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.
------------------
Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Cheshvan

Zucchini (Squash)

On 8 Cheshvan

Radish-Small

On 15 Cheshvan

Lettuce
Peas in Pod
Turnip


On 20 Cheshvan

Dill

On 27 Cheshvan

Radish

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Corn (Fresh)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.
------------------
Biur

There are no items that will require biur this month.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hoshana Rabbah: More Water at the Kotel?



Tonight, Hashana Rabbah, I visited the Kotel for Mishna Torah - where we read the entire sefer Devarim. Standing in one spot for so long I couldn't help notice something a little unusual.I was standing inside the section known as Wilson's Arch and every ten minutes or so a drop of water would fall from the ceiling. There was one poor guy sitting there that kept getting hit by these drops looking up and wondering where they came from. On my way out I saw another drop fall from another spot in the arch area closer to the exit. Don't get me wrong. It was just a few drops over a long time but considering we haven't had rain in six months it is strange.

Where could these drops be coming from?


Two years ago I remember reading in the Jerusalem Post a story complete with photos of water flowing out of the Kotel. Reb Lazar wrote about it and explain that it was no doubt water from the Gihon river (which gets a cameo appearance in the Torah reading this Shabbos) which lies directly beneath the Dome of the Rock. That wouldn't be too far from the Wilson's Arch area at all - and water would flow down toward there as water always flows down.

Reb Lazer explains:
As mentioned in the previous post on this subject, by Islamic tradition, if the Gihon spring begins to rise on the Temple Mount, it signifies the beginning of Jewish redemption; if Yisrael must rise, then Yishmael must fall. By our own tradition, the moisture at the Western Wall of the Holy Temple indicates the impending redemption of the people and land of Israel, the rebuilding of the Temple and the coming of Moshiach ben David, speedily and in our time, amen.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aliyah Is Something Only Russians Do, Right?


Jewsweek reports about The Jewish Reconnection Project which joins five young Jews in New York with four young Jews in Jerusalem. (Why not five on five? I guess Israel always does more with less!) In the series a host of issues are discussed. Naturally the one of most interest to Kumah is Israel vs. Diaspora. Some thoughts of mine follow below the clip.


When asked what "Aliyah" is, one young American Jew (or Jewish American depending on who you ask) responded matter-of-fact-ly, "Aliyah is like coming from Eastern Europe." She caught herself and very quickly added "or coming from wherever, and immigrating to the land of Israel."

---

Here's something odd:

Secular Israeli guy remarks how if he grew up outside Israel he might have a stronger Jewish identity because here he takes it for granted because "everybody is Jewish." Now aside for the fact that the rate of Jewish intermarriage in America has proven that statement to be utterly ridiculous and of flawed logic, I was struck by something else I saw. On the words "[in Israel] everybody is Jewish" the film editor cuts to, if I'm not mistaken, scenes from Maron on Lag B'Omer. We see hundreds of Chassidim dancing. This is curious. When this Chiloni said he was surrounded by Jews in Israel I don't think he was thinking of Maron. He was more likely thinking of night clubs in Tel Aviv. And yet when the American producer of the video heard the words "everyone is Jewish in Israel" he thought of Chassidim dancing at the Kever of Reb Shimon Bar Yachi. Most curious indeed! Pray tell, why?

---

Israel is a bad place for a Jew to live another American concludes because it's "too easy" to be Jewish and you don't have to "think about it." And here we are at Kumah using the very same logic to promote Aliyah! (Truth be told you ALWAYS have to "think about it" no matter where you are. It might just be a bit easier to find kosher pizza and falafel here. That's a bad thing?)

---

Best line. "Well I find that kind of sad!" remarked by a young secular Israeli lady responding to a religious American Jew when he explains he doesn't wear his Kippa in college because he wants to hide his Jewish identity. Sad indeed.

---

Other words of wisdom from the same chiloni, responding to the Americans who said how important the "Homeland" is (it's nice to visit, but they wouldn't want to live there):

"If you feel that Israel is a place for the Jews, and it should be there, then you should step up and do something about it." We, here at Kumah, agree.

---

She also (the very same chiloni) got the last word in:

"I don't love this county because it's the prettiest country or it's the nicest country, you know, I love it because it's mine, and it's the only - the only home I've got."

Excellent! But, just for the record... it IS the prettiest! :)

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So How Many Seeds Does a Pomegranate Have?



Okay. Sorry I missed posting it two weeks ago but this is too cool.

So it's like this. Everybody knows the age old question "how many seeds does a pomegranate have?" And every little Jewish kid at Rosh Hashanah knows the answer. Exactly 613 - parallel to the number of mitzvos of the Torah. Hmm.

But do they really have 613?

A Columbia University professor (likely for a statistics course) collected data by counting seeds from 206 pomegranates from all over the world. The least number of seeds one had was 165 (an Iranian one...hmm...) and the max number was 1370 (from one grown in the USA).

But the average number of seeds was remarkably exactly 613!

The entire study including all the data can be found here.

Hat Tip: existwhere?

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chareidi Community Funding Terrorists



No this is not about the Neturai Karta but about the "mainstream" chareidi community.

It's like this. There are four options for observing Shmittah.

1. If possible use 6th year produce, use imported produce from non-Arab countries, or produce from the southern Aravah.

2. Otzar Bet Din

3. Heter Mechirah

4. Arab Produce

A sizeable portion of the chareidi community has decided to embrace (as in past years) the 4th option, even though options 1 and 2 are 100% halachiclly sound!

Option 4 is extremely harmful. Aside from putting Jewish farmers that are observing the Torah and Shmittah out of business they are providing revenue to mass murderers that will use the very money they make from this to build rockets to fire at Israel and to build bomb belts to use on Israeli buses - Heaven forbid! One has to ask how option 4 can be permitted hachically at all. It can't be. Public pressure must be applied to the kashrus organizations that use this method. Boycotts should be arranged. And the chareidi public must be informed about what is going on. I did see one Chareidi publication - Mishpacha - was promoting the option of Otzar Bet Din over the other methods and that is an excellent start. But more needs to be done.

Here is a link to a story posted on The Yeshiva World. At the time of this post no comments were posted there yet. It will be interesting to see the discussion that develops.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Reminder: In EY, Clocks Go Back One Hour Tonight!



Don't forget to change your clocks tonight. This will allow to fast to end one hour earlier. So tomorrows Tzom ends 6:11pm in Yershalayim instead of 7:11pm. Woo hoo!

Israel will remain 6 hours ahead of New York till mid-November.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shana Tova! - Remember to do a Pruzbol!




As you all know by now (if you follow Kumah) the Shmittah year is just about upon us. One of the laws of Shmittah is that loans are nullified. 2000 years ago Hillel saw that people stopped lending out money because they were afraid they would never get it back since the loans would be nullified. Hillel's solution to this problem was the Pruzbol. The Pruzbol is a legal document that gives the court, the beis din, the right to collect the money for you. There is a disagreement among the halachic authorities when this document must be completed. Most say by the end of the Shmittah year but some hold it must be completed today!

The picture above this post is one text published by the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel in Hebrew.

The RCC publishes a Pruzbol in English here.

Here's another one.

Chabad actually has an Online Pruzbol form that they say to use as a last resort.

Shana Tova!

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tishrei 5768



The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. Please also note that there are many other shmittah calendars out there that may provide different dates that those posted here. These dates should therefore not be used "halacha lemisa" but for educational purposes only. You should however use this information to consult with your Rav as for the proper actions to take. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

Many items should begin being treated as having Kedushat Shevi'it this month including:

On 1 Tishrei

Corn (Fresh)

On 3 Tishrei

Asparagus
Banana
Basil
Beets
Broccoli
Butternut Squash
Cabbage
Cabbage (Red)
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Coriander
Cucumbers
Dill
Eggplant
Etrog
Fennel
Horseradish
Kohlrabi
Lettuce
Melon
Mint
Onions
Paprika
Parsley
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Peppers
Pineapple
Pumpkin
Radish
Radish-Small
Scallion
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes
Turnip
Watermelon
Zucchini (Squash)



Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.

Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Tishrei

Corn (Fresh)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.

Biur

There are no items that will require biur this month.

Additionally, please note:
The following items are items are imported and not affected by the laws of Shmittah:
Beans
Cashews
Cinnamon
Cranberries
Cumin
Ginger
Hyssop
Kidney Beans
Kimmel (Caraway Seeds)
Lentils
Oats
Peas (Dried)
Pepper (powder - both white and black)
Pistachio
Poppy Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Rice
Soya
Spelt
Sugar
Tarragon
Walnut


Also Sesame is Godulei Nochri in Israel and not affected by the laws of Shmittah.

Also most Wheat used in Israel is imported. However there is wheat which is grown locally and certain bakeries specifically use it. Organic wheat is likely grown in Israel. Read labels carefully and ask your baker and then ask your local Rav for a final posak.

Oh, and one more thing! Apples - since they are in the above picture for Tishrei - they don't get Kedushat Shevi'it till Iyar, but they keep it till the following Iyar so this Rosh Hashana you don't have to finish the whole apple you dip in honey...but next Rosh Hashana you might need to!

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fun with Shmittah!




Are you ready for some Shmittah?

Well first let's get one thing straight once and for all. The word "problem" should never EVER be used when referring to one of Hashem's commandments and certainly not by anyone living in Eretz Yisrael regarding Shmittah. Shmittah is not a problem! It's a mitzvah! And what's more? It's a mitzvah only us Jews zoche (worthy) to be living in Eretz Yisrael this year can keep! Yes, by the use of exclamation points in this post you could tell I'm a bit "pumped" and excited about what begins in just a few short days! I just got back from an awesome shuir on Shmittah that cleared up a whole bunch of questions I had.

Do you realize you get a mitzvah for every bite you take out of something that has Kedushas Shvius? And you get a mitzvah when you treat that Holy produce the right way as well. You know what else? All those Jews sitting in Brooklyn, New York... no better... all those Jews sitting in Lakewood, New Jersey know less about Shmittah than your average four year old playing on the monkey bars in Ramat Beit Shemesh! Here is a whole important section of the Torah that these Jews just "don't care about" because it "doesn't apply." I don't know about you... but if Hashem gave us a few more mitzvos to do, and all we have to do to keep these mitzvos is change our zip code... ehh, nevermind. Just a thought...

Now for the important points. The halachos of Shmittah are detailed and numerous with many different opinions and many different approaches. I was thinking of somehow trying to summarize them right here and now but I tell you, the best summary I have ever seen online was written by Rav Asher Balanson of Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalim. It is an absolute must read if you are just waking up now and realizing that Shmittah is just a few days away. Aside from that it is recommended that you go into any bookstore and ask about books on Shmittah. Many bookstores have them all laid out on tables in front. And finally ask questions to your LOR. If you don't have a Rav to ask all your halachic questions now is a VERY good time to get one. And in Eretz Yisrael B"H rabbis are not hard to find.

Okay... now for the fun part. Various organization put out "Shmittah calendars." These calendars contain three important dates.

1. When a certain produce can be considered to have Kedushas Shvius.
2. When a certain vegetable or grain can be considered Sefichim.
3. The date that Biur must be done on the produce.

These dates vary for all different grains, fruits and vegetables. To understand what these dates mean read the Rav Balanson summary.

In any case I have obtained the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel's "Shmittah 5768: A Practical Guide" (which you can order for yourself here.) It was compiled by Rabbi David Marcus who I had the pleasure of meeting tonight. And I do recommend you get the guide!

So here's the plan. Here at Kumah, Bez"H before every Rosh Chodesh we will post the important dates that will become relevant for various produce that month. It should be exciting and we'll get to learn a lot more about how, when and where things grow. For example much to my chagrin I now know that both cashews and pistachios (that I would bring to NY to brag about how great the produce here are) are actually imported! (The good news about that is that this mean I can still bring them outside EY to NY.)

Anyway stayed tuned to this blog as a whole lot of produce can already be considered to have Kedushas Shvius come sundown on Wednesday night!

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Aliyah To Lakewood, NJ, Hashem's Temple




Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!

BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!

What's got Pinchas so worked up? Well "a former Talmid of BMG" wrote a letter to the editor of the Yated and it was printed on page 88 of the 10 Elul - Aug 24 edition. In this letter the former Talmid continually compares Bais Medrash Govoah (BMG) to the actual Bais Hamikdosh! He ponders as he approaches BMG if he is feeling "what oleh regel felt like." At one point in the letter he calls those that live in Lakewood "choshoveh bnei aliyah." To this guy there are two buildings one can refer to as "bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov." And by feeling BMG is one of them, he concludes, we will merit for the other one to be built.

What more can I write but Berlin is Jerusalem Syndrome strikes again.

However there is a ray of hope. I happen to know for a fact there actually are holy Jews from Lakewood, New Jersey that are indeed making Aliyah (the kind where you move to Eretz Yisrael.) May the merit of these Jews protect those "lost ones" and the Jewish community in Lakewood and may it inspire them to wake up and realize that "Ain Torah K'Toras Eretz Yisrael!" And may they all become true "choshoveh bnei aliyah."

Hashem Yeracham!

Because Yated has no real viable website the letter in question is reproduced below in its entirety. Be warned though... it may get you worked up a bit...

---

INSPIRED BY BMG

Dear Editor,


We returned a few days ago from a bain hazmanim vaction in Lakewood, or rather, I should say a week's worth of recharging our batteries and basking in the light of the greatest makam Torah in America.

Although I have never written a letter to the editor before, I want to use this forum to share my feelings and deep hargashas with the choshuveh yungeliet who are zocheh to make up this makom kadosh, and the parents, who in large part are the ones who make it possible. I hope my words can serve as divrei chizuk to these all important members of Klal Yisroel.

We approached the buildings of Bais Medrash Govoah during bain hazemanim with great anticipation and emotion. I thought to myself that, in reality, we are approaching a bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah Shimcha olov; a place that is great, a place that is holy, a place where Hakadosh Boruch Hu is mashreh Shechinah, a place which creates a tremendous Kiddush Hashem - (I wondered to myself that, perhaps, this is a sample of what oleh regel felt like during the times of the Bais Hamikdosh as the Yidden approached Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdosh.)

It is in the halls of this makom kadosh that I was zocheh to learn for many years. Much of our ruchniyus, both my own and my family's, has come from these botei medrash. My rabbeim and roshei yeshiva were omel b'Torah in this very yeshiva for years. My children's rabbeim shteiged here. Leaders of our generation, roshei yeshivos and rabbeim, have grown in Torah, tefillah and yiras Shomayim in these very buildings.

I toured the various botei medrash. I reminded myself that in this corner we learned this mesechta, on the other side of the bais medrish another mesechta and on the stage of Bais Shalom a third. I remember where I was standing during Rav Matisyahu Salomon's first shmuess, and where my seat was for the Yomim Noraim…

We thoroughly enjoyed our bain hazmemanim, from the yeshiva davening, slowly enunciating each word with its own sweet taste, to learning sedorim in the various botei medrash, surrounded by Bnei Torah, yungeliet and bochurim learning with hasmada even during bain hazemanim, I found myself imagining how much more geshmak it much be during the zeman with six botei medrish packed with lomdei Torah learning with a bren.

Which brings me to the point of this letter.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that when Dovid Hamelech also davened, "Shivri b'vais Hashem kol yimei chayai... u'livaker b'haychalo," the he should dwell and visit the Bais Hashem, he was really davening for two things. First and foremost, he davened to dwell constantly in the Bais Hashem to feel the enthusiasm and the hispailus that only a visitor can feel and that can sometimes be lost on the permanent resident of the Bais Hashem. Dovid Hamelech was mispallel that he should never lose the hispailus and appreciation that only a visitor can feel. (In fact, the Chossid Yaivitz explains that the reason a visitor to the Bais Hamikdosh much leave through a different door than the one he entered is so that he should not lose the hispailus that he felt when he saw the Bais Hamikdosh from the first angle and seeing it again from the very same angle. Instead, each door should be seen only once, to create a lasting and breathtaking first impression.)

It is with this thought from the Chafetz Chaim in mind that I want to take the opportunity to share with those who are zocheh to be shivtie b'vais Hashem the feelings and impressions of a visitor, a mevaer b'haychalo. I'm well aware of the daily tirdos of the choshoveh bnei aliyah who learn in this bayis gadol v'kadosh, including babysitting, carpooling, playgroups, wives working full time, parnassa issues, etc., and the koach of hergel on top of it all. But I wish that each and every one of you should be zoche to fell the excitement, the magnitude, the awe, the hispailus, the love, and the longing the we, the former talmidim - those who were once zoche to be shivti babayis hazeh - feel when we are mevaker b'haychalo. May Hakadosh Boruch Hu help you feel anticipation and excitement each day as you enter this great makom Torah and walk its hallowed halls.

To the parents, in-laws and relatives of these choshuveh yungeleit, I would like to share the following. As we were leaving Lakewood, something I saw got me thinking. We all have different ways in which we are able to support out precious chavrei hakollel. Some offer financial help directly to the yeshiva. Others can afford to give financial help to their children and relatives. Others support yungeleit in the form of gifts and clothing, and yet others can supply emotional support, a compliment, a good vort, or words of appreciation to our young treasures who do so much for, and are tremendous zechus to, their families and the entire Klal Yisroel.

Whatever it is that we can do, let us do it proudly, with a deep understanding and great appreciation of the chashivus of Torah, chashivus of lomdei Torah, chashivus of a makom Torah, and while bearing in mind what Torah, limud HaTorah and a makom Torah does for us, our families, for Klal Yisroel and for our future.

May Hakadosh Boruch Hu bentch us that our appreciation and understanding of what this bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov means to us and Klal Yisroel should hasten the bulding of the bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov that we refer to in our bentching.

A Former Talmid Of BMG

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Secret Weapon of the IDF




All the nations of the world will see that G-d's Name is associated with you, and they will be in awe of you. (Devarim 28:10).

Menachot 35b interprets this verse as a reference to the tefillin worn on the head.



When the Gentiles see the Jews proudly attired in tefillin, they respect them. Tefillin cast an aura of fear over Israel's foes. Even demons and spirits will tremble in fright (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5a).



The first letters of Shem Hashem Nikrah, "G-d's Name is associated," spell out the name of the letter SHiN. A Shin bolts out of either side of the head tefillin. It is the first letter of Sha-D-I. (Baal HaTurim).



"Tefillin are G-d's crown... Whoever dons this crown will become the ruler below, as G-d is the ruler above" (Zoher III 269b).



Similarly, Berachot 56a maintains that a person who sees tefillin in his dreams will soon rise to power. Berahot (6a) interprets "G-d's powerful arm" (Isaiah 62:8) as tefillin. "Tefillin grant power to Israel."



Accordingly, it has always been customary for Jewish soldiers to observe the mitzvah of tefillin with great care.




Text taken from Meam Loez on Ki Tavo p. 150. Photos collected from the Internet.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Those Donuts Better Be Badatz!


Malkah is going to love this one!

In case you missed it, last week the Jerusalem Post had a story about a very interesting Jerusalem Police Officer - a Satmar Chussid! Read on...
Gail Lichtman reports:
Black and blue

Joir (Yair) Lew is probably the last person you would think of as a uniformed volunteer in the Israel Police. It's not because of his age (he's only 31), or his state of health (he's obviously hale and hearty), or even the fact that he is a new immigrant (he speaks Hebrew fluently). But because he is a Satmar Hassid - a member of a haredi sect known for its opposition to secular, political Zionism and the State of Israel, as well as being vehemently against serving in the Israeli army.

So what is Lew doing as a member of Jerusalem's special uniformed volunteer police unit?

"I was brought up in England to be openminded and to love my fellow Jews," explains Lew, who was educated in a Satmar yeshiva and made aliya from London with his wife in 2002.

"Just as I want people to respect me as a human being, so I respect others. I hate the fact that people in Israel break Jews down into categories. All Jews are brothers whether religious or secular, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Russian, Moroccan, or the like. I joined the police because I want to serve my fellow Jews."

In April 2006, Lew, who was unemployed at the time (he has since started working in a kibbutz factory near Jerusalem), was walking in downtown Jerusalem when he saw police officers recruiting for Yasham (the Hebrew acronym for police volunteer unit).

"The officers were really nice," Lew recalls. "And I was looking for something to do. So I took the information and called the unit. I went for the interview, filled out the forms, passed the background check and was accepted."

Naturally, before joining the unit Lew consulted both his father in England and a rabbi. "I asked if joining would be a problem," he says. "Both the rabbi and my father said essentially the same thing: There is a difference between serving the citizens of this country and serving the State of Israel. Serving Jews as a police officer is okay; serving the State of Israel as a soldier is not."

To some this may seems to be splitting hairs but to Lew it was the answer he needed to join Yasham.

Satmar Hassidim, who originated in an area on the Hungarian-Romanian border, base their opposition to the state on their belief that the creation of a Jewish state by Jews runs counter to God's will. However, they are taught to love the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.

Today, the majority of Satmars live in the US. Only about 900 families live in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Because of their opposition to political Zionism, they do not serve in the army and refrain from taking money from the State of Israel.

"During the Second Lebanon War, our rabbi, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, told us to say tehilim [psalms] for Jewish soldiers fighting and being injured," Lew relates. "We said them for Jews not Israelis. All over the world, Satmars prayed for the health and peace of our brothers."

Yasham is a unique Jerusalem phenomenon and is the only police volunteer unit not part of the Civil Guard (Mishmar Ezrahi). Set up five years before the Civil Guard in 1969, to answer Jerusalem's special needs, Yasham currently has about 120 volunteers. This is down from some 250 at the height of the second intifada, but recent months have seen an upswing in interest and recruiting.

"The Yasham attracts volunteers from all walks of life - we have in our unit doctors, lawyers and professors, as well as street cleaners," says Yasham's chief operations officer, Maj. Robert Mountwitten. "But Lew is our only Satmar. In fact, he is currently the only haredi in the unit, although we now have another haredi volunteer who is in the vetting process."

Volunteers range in age from 18 to 65, and include both men and women. They must pass a security check, cannot have a criminal record and must be in good health.

"Those in our unit have to do at least 16 hours a month or four hours every week of volunteering," Mountwitten explains. "In the Civil Guard, volunteers usually do one shift a month. We are in uniform and armed. The unit operates in accordance with the powers extended to police officers by the Knesset. We do patrols, roadblocks, ticketing, etc. We basically have the same authority as regular police officers."

"The Yasham is important in that it gives a lot of extra man-hours to the police and fills in the gaps," he continues. "All of us feel that we are doing something for the security of this city and its people. And if bombs are not going off, it just shows that what the police and the army are doing is working."

Lew is proud of his service, which generally concentrates on security issues. "But we can and do stop vehicles if we feel that the way the driver is driving or something else could be harmful to the public," he says.

In the course of his service, he admits to encountering a few genuine humdingers. "I once pulled over a van that was driving on a main Jerusalem road at night without lights," Lew recalls. "The driver turned out to be a Palestinian who did not have a driving license, did not have an Israeli ID, did not have a registration for the vehicle and was transporting 10 illegal Palestinians in the van. This was a free man in a free world. I couldn't believe that he was driving an overloaded van filled with illegals, without a driving license, registration or ID and was dumb enough not to put his lights on."

On another occasion, Lew stopped a car that seemed too heavy and overcrowded. "The driver thought the whole thing was very amusing. But I was really serious. The man had a car full of children - there were five in the back seat. But when I had him open the truck, I was amazed to discover he had two more children in there. He said that if there wasn't an engine under the hood, he would have put some more children there."

Lew was on patrol in Mea She'arim and Geula during the protests preceding the gay pride parade. "I was driving in my car with the police light on top," Lew recounts. "I had garbage and rocks thrown at me. If I had been foolish enough to get out, I would have been beaten. The fact that I am a haredi man would not have helped. These protesters did not care. But once they were arrested, they quickly started to ask for a frum officer.

"When they were throwing stones, they didn't care if I was a frum cop or not. However, I don't think I can criticize them because once I was part of these demonstrations. When I was studying in yeshiva, I used to join all the protests, no matter what - no autopsies, no Shabbos traffic, modesty, etc. But I was never violent or threw stones."

On protest-free days Lew says he gets an entirely different reception on the streets of the city's haredi neighborhoods. "When I drive through on duty, in uniform, people stop and tell me how proud they are to see a haredi officer. They often ask how they can join the police."

Lew, who is fluent in English, Yiddish and Hebrew, understands German and speaks a little Hungarian, Romanian and French, has started learning Arabic. "I assume it will help me with my police work," he says.

As an Englishman, used to police traditionally armed with nightsticks, Lew is glad that he has never had to draw his gun. "I sincerely hope that I never will have an occasion to use it. And one day, I hope that police in Israel will not need weapons either," he says.

For more information on Yasham, call 050-563-3121.

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